What Women Can Do When “Meritocracies” Push Them Out
By Sallie Krawcheck
You work hard
But deserving women (and men) don’t always get a fair shot.
When I was growing up, my parents told me — like so many white women of my era — that I could do anything I set my mind to.
On the one hand, that was great because it gave me confidence, even in tough times.
On the other, it wasn’t so great because it wasn’t…um…true. The hardest workers, the most deserving, the executives who beat their budget, the managers who do business the right way aren’t always the ones who are rewarded or promoted. Success can instead be based on whether or not you look and act like “the boss.” In fact, industries that are considered to be meritocracies tend to be among the least diverse. (I still find this slightly shocking.)
We can also see this “good guys finish last” in business practices across some industries. In the investing industry, companies that say their services are “free” or that they “guarantee” returns can pull in lots of assets while their hidden fees remain hidden…and lucrative. In contrast, companies that aim for transparency with their clients about the reality of fees (even if theirs are lower than the other guys’) can get dinged for that transparency.
But you can almost feel the change in the air; something is stirring.
The New York Times article “Why Women Aren’t CEOs” was the most popular article on the site over the weekend. And a number of venture capitalists who have harassed women are losing their jobs…publicly.
It feels like we’re reaching some type of critical mass among women, and many men, of “I just don’t want to take this any longer” and “I don’t want to work for companies that don’t share my values.”
And so we are talking about our stories and writing about them and sharing them. This transparency matters, because it makes it more and more clear that it’s “not just me” — or my friend or my colleague — who didn’t get the job or the promotion. It’s that the advancement of gender diversity across entire industries has stalled…despite its well-documented benefits to business.
I like the thinking behind Cindy Gallop’s idea of forming a new financial ecosystem for women. I can imagine a world in which we consciously buy from each other, fund each other, refer business to each other, talk each other up, recommend each other for board roles and jobs.
But we don’t even have to go the whole way there to make a difference.
We can become more conscious of how we spend and invest our dollars, and we can engage our financial power to support companies that do the right thing, and withhold our business from those who don’t.
Like an Uber.
It won’t take a lot to start to make a difference. But it will take us acting differently.
P.S. We’ve been working hard on making some changes to What The Elle. I can’t wait to share them with you when the new What The Elle arrives in your inbox next Wednesday (and then every Wednesday after that).