“Gender equality must become a lived reality” – Michelle Bachlet
Let’s face it – the news was not good. What news? The news contained in the Women in the Workplace 2015 report by Lean In and the McKinsey & Company. Sadly, the report notes that women remain under-represented at every level in the corporate pipeline and that we continue to face greater barriers to advancement and a steeper path to senior leadership. While the report shows that women leave organizations at most levels at a lower rate than men, it also shows that we advance far more slowly from one level to the next. Additionally, while many continue to believe that women generally do not aspire to top positions, the report shows that women at every level desire to be top executives, but at a lower rate than their male counterparts (with the gap getting larger towards the top). However, even more troubling are statements that senior-level women view their gender to be a larger disadvantage than entry-level women. Moreover, these same women are less likely to view their organization as meritocratic and more likely to think that women have fewer opportunities. Furthermore, these women are more likely to believe that their gender has made it harder and will continue to make it harder, for them to advance. The report notes that this uneven playing field appears to take a toll on women in leadership. Specifically, the report states that senior-level women are markedly less satisfied with their role, opportunities for advancement and career than their male counterparts. Bottom line, according to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Co-Founder of LeanIn.org, at the current rate, it will take more than 100 years for women to reach equality in the workplace. To put it in more concrete terms, Ms. Sandberg said, “If NASA launched a person into space today, she could soar past Mars, travel all the way to Pluto and return to Earth 10 times before women occupy half of C-suite offices. Yes, we’re that far away.”
The report also provides some recommendations about what companies should due to increase gender equality in the workplace. Suggestions include (1) tracking key metrics (such as performance reviews and promotions and compensation for women and men in similar roles and attrition) to determine what is and is not working; (2) having senior leadership genuinely commit, by investing time and money, to gender diversity (such as by setting gender-specific objections and holding leaders accountable for not reaching those goals); (3) training employees to identify and counteract gender bias in hiring and performance reviews; (4) not penalizing participants in employee programs, such as family leave; and (5) creating a level playing field for women and implementing systems that support women (such as formal mentorship programs and networking events).
While the recommendations for increasing equality in the workplace are helpful and necessary, we need for corporate America to move faster in implementing these recommendations and effecting change. We simply cannot and should not wait 100 years to achieve equality in the workplace. It is simply unacceptable.
In my mind, the report is a call to action. As women, we need to use our brain and economic power and unite with one voice and demand that corporate America move faster in achieving gender equality. So, what can we do? We should use the avenues within our institutions to voice our concerns in an attempt to hold senior leadership accountable for failing to actively and aggressively promote gender equality, such as by using employee surveys, team and all-employee meetings, etc. We should encourage human resource initiatives that promote gender quality such as increasing the number of female hires, providing flexible work schedules, options for working at home and the creation of strong mentorship programs. Additionally, it is imperative that female leaders within companies step forward and mentor and guide younger females to the next level. Finally, perhaps we should consider using our purchasing power to recognize those companies that consistently demonstrate a commitment toward job equality.
Whatever it is, we need to lean in together and push corporate America to move gender equality forward faster.
“I’m inviting you to step forward, to be seen and ask yourself…
If not me, who?
If not now, when?” – Emma Watson
This post was written by Lisa Mueller