Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

A Better Workplace: 4 Ways To Jump-Start Gender Equity At Last

As the economy reopens and companies transition to a new normal, leaders have an opportunity to make the changes that will pave the way for women to rise through the ranks and succeed.

We’ve reached a turning point for women and power: With Kamala Harris as Vice President, Mary Barra leading the auto industry into the future with GM’s transition to electric cars, Citi’s Jane Fraser being called “The New Face of Power on Wall Street,” and Amanda Gorman’s star turn as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, there’s no shortage of successful women to celebrate. And yet we still have so far to go. Just ask the more than 2.3 million women who have left the U.S. workforce since the pandemic started—including many earning six figures—to care for family and educate their kids.

As the economy reopens and companies transition to a new normal, there are several things leaders need to focus on so that more women can rise through the ranks and succeed.

1. Embrace more diverse leadership styles.

Women appreciate networking groups and opportunities to learn from and bolster one another. They also need champions, men and women who will give them credit for their ideas and make them part of important decisions.

But companies and their leaders shouldn’t expect women to fit the molds of the past or try to force them into a construct built for men. Let’s fix a system that has saved the best rewards for women who exhibit “male” personality traits. I believe one reason I thrived in the financial services industry earlier in my career is that I was able to embody traditionally “masculine” qualities. A two-sport, Division 1 athlete in college, I was competitive and, at times, aggressive. I spoke my mind—and still do; but not every talented woman is similar.

We can capitalize most on the benefits of gender/ethnic diversity and diversity of thought if we embrace the qualities females bring to the table. A study conducted early in the pandemic rated women as more effective leaders and suggested women may perform better in a crisis—one of many showing the value of these qualities in solving problems.

2. Put a price on gender bias in the C-suite.

It’s now widely accepted that diverse teams make better decisions, yet decision-makers still aren’t hiring diverse talent. For too many leaders,  “the best person” means someone who looks just like them—the same gender, ethnicity, background, and experiences. This bias can be overcome by hitting leaders where it counts: in the wallet. Investors have realized this in recent years and are supporting more diverse boards, which set strategies and long-term goals for companies. As a result, every company in the S&P 500 now has a woman on their board. Board diversity is fast becoming table stakes; now managements must follow suit. Tying diversity goals to executive compensation is the place to start. 

3. Support women in the middle of their careers.

Women tend to get stuck in middle management. Some become discouraged by limited opportunities for advancement and compensation concerns, while others feel they must choose between family and career. The American Bar Association found that the top reasons experienced women leave private law firms relate to childcare commitments, levels of work stress, and pressure to bill a large number of hours while also originating business. In other words, they need to “do it all.” Women lawyers also report being perceived as having less commitment to their career compared to their male peers and are denied or overlooked for advancement or promotion in greater numbers.

Generous parental leave, sick leave, and flexible work-hour policies send a clear message to women building their careers: “You have a future here.” By focusing on hiring, promotion, and retention efforts in middle management, fewer women will be forced to choose between family and career.

4. Pay women what they’re worth.

It’s hard to believe this needs to be said, but it does: U.S. women today make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. The gap is even wider for Black women: 63 cents when compared to men.

Twice in my career I’ve learned that men who reported to me were earning more than me. I had to advocate for myself to ensure I was appropriately compensated without negatively impacting my employees – a process that took time and a toll on my morale.

Instead of forcing women to advocate for themselves, companies should make their commitment to closing the pay gap a top priority and a recruiting tool. It’s time to get this right.

In addition, employers must not overlook the importance of “intersectionality” – famously coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the ways social identities overlap – a factor compounding the disadvantages experienced by women of color and/or those with fewer economic means. With so much of the current data on women in the workplace based on the experiences of white women, true, lasting progress for all women won’t be made until diverse leadership teams are in place making decisions based on improved research.

So, yes—let’s celebrate the women who break barriers and land the jobs they deserve. But as vaccines are delivered, schools reopen and life adapts to a new normal, let’s also welcome women back to a workplace that has evolved from the one so many left last year: a better workplace that values women as much as men, tackles gender barriers head on, and holds us all accountable for the progress that needs to be made.


MORE LIKE THIS

  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events

    Roundtable

    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)

     

    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.