Gender Equality Pays
Businesses with diverse leadership teams generally do better in the marketplace—but even so, gender parity is still rare at the highest levels.
According to a global study which analyzed 21,980 firms in 91 countries, there is a positive correlation between the proportion of women in corporate leadership and firm profitability. For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin. 
Every year, more and more women rise up through the corporate ranks or launch businesses of their own.
According to 2020 Women on Board, which researches the gender composition of active companies on the Fortune 1000, women Gained 74 Board Seats in 2016. Women now hold 19.7% of board seats, an increase from 18.8% from 2015, and from 14.6% in 2011. The same report revealed that companies add board seats to achieve diversity. Of the 120 companies that added women, 70 (58%) did so by increasing the total number of board seats to accommodate a new woman appointee, without replacing men. This challenges the argument that boards need to wait for a man to step down in order to add a woman.
Look inside your organization and answer the following: How many women are employed? How many of those women are in top level/executive positions? Are women in equivalent roles to men paid equally? Be transparent about your desire to address these questions and then follow up with real, shared action.
PART 1: Own and Protect a Safe and Respectful Workplace
POWER OF PERSPECTIVE: Read this case study to understand the harmful impact of workplace harassment on people and businesses: Susan Fowler reflects on one very strange year at Uber.
- HOW TO CREATE A SAFE AND RESPECTFUL WORKPLACE:
- Establish a policy that strictly and specifically forbids any form of harassment or discrimination, using definitions and examples. Describe in detail the professional consequences that will result from policy violations.
- Ensure that employees have a safe avenue for reporting harassment or discrimination directly to the human resources department without fear of retribution.
- When harassment is reported, act immediately to address the issue. Refer to company policies.
PART 2: Evolve Beyond Gender Bias
POWER OF PERSPECTIVE: Understand the cost of gender bias on employee productivity and retention: A man discovers his ‘Invisible Advantage’ at work after he switches email signatures with a female colleague.
- HOW BIAS OPERATES
- Women often feel as if their ideas are not heard at work.
- Men don’t see this because their ideas are always heard, even if their ideas are not always adopted
- An international survey of 240,000 workers from the Gender Intelligence Group shows that women feel professional exclusion in their workplaces, while men remain unaware that there’s a problem.
- If you think there isn’t a problem in your workplace, consider that victims of bias may not feel confident coming forward with complaints, especially if their professional input is already ignored.
- Understand Male Privilege: Even if individuals in the workplace are not biased, men benefit from broader cultural advantages, such as:
- If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
- If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
- When I ask to see “the person in charge,” odds are I will face a person of my own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
- I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch.
- As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than my sisters.
- BEST PRACTICES:
- Involve everyone: Too often, women speak almost exclusively with other women about this issue. Too often, men speak about it far too little — and rarely with women.
- If you’re a man, make it a point to discuss this with women openly, and do your best not to take it personally.
- If you’re a woman, make a point of talking to men about this, doing your best to leave any blame/judgement out of it.
- PROGRAMS: Many forward-thinking companies like Facebook and Google have launched programs to help women and men recognize and navigate unconscious bias.
- Actively encourage women to take more chances and go for opportunities
- Counteract low self-esteem by celebrating women’s successes
- Push back on the likability penalty:
- Words to watch: Aggressive, demanding, pushy, difficult, “not well liked,” Self-promotional
- Ask if the same standards would be applied to men
- Ensure that women’s ideas are heard and addressed during meetings
- Set ground rules for meetings: Everyone talks; no interruptions
- Interrupt the interrupters: “I’d like to hear the end of what Sarah had to say…”
- Assign and rotate office “housework” (i.e. events, dishes)
- Assign so you’re not relying on volunteers
- Provide safe avenues to routinely check in with women and men to ensure that gender exclusion is being addressed
- Formal: Surveys, interviews, organizational evaluations
- Informal: Peer counselors program
- Create formal avenues for women to access mentorship as well as to connect and support one another
- Ask senior leaders to sign-on to a mentorship matching program for women inside the firm.
- Support or spearhead the creation of women’s groups within the org. These groups provide opportunities for women to be with those who face the same dilemmas, and to exchange solutions for coping with these demands.
- Make female role models visible – Because of the relatively small number of senior women in corporations, there are few role models to emulate. Increase the exposure of senior women, and you’ll have greater success moving women to senior positions
- Assign in-house champions for these programs
- Be flexible for families: Offer flexible working hours, the option to work from home, or affordable on-site child care for both men and women
- Mandated maternity leave is not correlated with more female leadership, but stronger paternity leave policies are, as such policies spread the burden of child care more evenly
- Work with your human resources department to make sure that family leave is available to both men and women
- Support new mothers women returning to work by offering a private, comfortable space for pumping
- Reward outcomes achieved, not hours worked
- Establish a policy that ensures that men and women are compensated equally for performing the same work and treated equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion
- Account for group accomplishments and team productivity in performance evals, to measure women’s collaborative leadership styles
- Men are comfortable with hierarchy and tend to promote themselves and their individual work. Women lead in democratic, consensus-building ways and advocate for their teams.
- Remove names from the resume screening process and select candidates for interviews based only on education, experience and other required qualifications.
Conclusion: Leading Your Industry and Community
Publicize your efforts to promote gender equality on your company website, in newspaper editorials or ads, and on social media. Let other companies, your vendors and the local workforce know about your dedication to equality in the workplace.
Take it a step further and establish a mentorship pipeline that connects school-age girls to successful women in your company.
Added bonus: Attract and retain socially-minded talent! Research shows that employees value a workplace that is socially responsible and civically engaged and that reputation matters.
In short: When your company commits to creating gender equality, don’t hide it…flaunt it! Be a role model for others in your industry and community!