Are we willing to wait 100 years for gender parity?
At the current rate of progress, it will take more than one-hundred years for women to achieve gender parity in the workplace. Despite nearly equal representation among women and men in entry level employment, only 17 percent of women succeed to executive leadership roles (McKinsey, 2016).
This century of time translates into generations of women who will continue to be told — directly and indirectly — that their gender prohibits them from achieving their potential.
And in turn, this century will be marked by a real, significant loss of personal wealth building, and diversity of community influence. Millions of women will experience harassment, gender bias, low self-esteem, self-loathing, and be forced to forgo their ultimate potential because we are a society are content with this rate of progress. I am not content.
How can we empower individuals and teach organizations to transcend our current (cultural and socially) gendered parameters that drive to gender inequality?
This mission is personal for me. The evidence predicts that I will be just one of many women who are unable to move outside of society’s predetermined roles. I grew up believing that ability to adhere to gender norms fulfilled my potential and that I should accept gender discrimination as an inherent characteristic of being a woman. I was unaware of my own lack of agency and experienced a decade of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse that seemed to only reinforce these teachings. I’ve witnessed and experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.
Yet despite the immediate lack of role models and direct experience to counter this worldview, there was — and remains — a passionate voice within me that drowns out my critics, uses my negative experiences as fuel for change, compels me to pave a new path for myself and others to dream and achieve our highest ambitions.
I’m calling for a significant transformation of workplace culture from the bottom-up that places inclusion at the center of its success model.
My mission is to accelerate the rate of gender parity in the workforce by empowering women to achieve their desired career trajectory through the creation of truly inclusive workplaces. Within that broad mission, my goal is to create an organizational approach to leadership, team dynamics, and individual contributions that puts diversity at the center of its success model.
We need to find ways to eliminates common gender bias patterns that are rooted in our workplace and often go unaddressed in traditional workplace behavior models. And we can start by driving daily impact to amplify top-down diversity/inclusion messaging.
What if there was an organizational approach that was specifically designed to place diversity at the center of the team structure? This approach would create a team structure and leadership style that emphasizes collaboration, vulnerability, empathy, willingness to fail publicly, and the holistic self. It sum, it seeks to overturn the behaviors that allow gender bias to thrive.
We first need to understand that gender bias is often rooted in how we are socialized at young age and how Western culture still uses strict gender norms to create a subconscious division between women and men. This assumption frames how we combat gender bias in the workplace. An action plan could center on four key pillars:
1. Test for baseline diversity bias: create a hiring and onboarding process that reflects the organization’s commitment to combat gender bias
2. Make diversity education and dialogue around gender equality a regular occurrence with daily working teams — not just organizations. Create a proactive space for both genders to discuss their experience, fears, or successful moments related to gender bias.
3. Redefine traditional team values: emphasizes collaboration, vulnerability, empathy, willingness to fail publicly. Gender inequality creates two distinct models of how women and men should act. These restrictions limit our ability see either gender as holistic people and instead, force us to see people through first and foremost, a gendered lens. For example, women typically experience penalties for assertiveness — one of the core qualities often associated with leadership. This default standard can negatively impact women who face a double-bind of likeability when they are assertive.
Likewise, empathy for others and an intense focus on collaboration can improve team morale and drive the group to produce higher quality work. Yet these qualities are often overlooked or minimized because they do not fit within the traditional definition of a successful team. In current socialization patterns, women are socialized to develop these qualities more so than men yet they are often minimized for them the workplace.
4. Make a commitment to diversity align with personal advancement. Rate employees’ ability to welcome and encourage diversity as part of their review cycle through self-assessment and anonymous reporting.
I’ve implemented some of these pillars as a leader in working groups as and have witnessed a thriving sense of inclusion and innovation — this shift to viewing individuals and teams as holistic contributors may significantly reduce our gender bias when used in combination with education and awareness on gender diversity.
However, these are early and anecdotal observations. The key to accelerating gender parity will be in how this bottom-up approach can be refined, adopted and implemented in a variety of environments — especially in those organizations struggling to make a meaningful progress on diversity in the workplace.
We can accelerate the rate of gender parity within the workplace. To achieve this mission would be transformative for our society — a transformation I know we can achieve in our lifetime.