How do we move things in the right direction within companies when it comes to gender equity?
We’ve had lots of great conversations, surveys, and data, but the fundamental reality is that, as a society, we have not approached equity for women as a real business priority. We need passionate leaders who deeply understand the business and social rationale for having women engaged in the work force — not just on the board or in management, but in all levels of the organization.
You need to understand not just how diverse your work force is but how inclusive it is. You have to look at the whole system to understand where you’re losing people, where you’re not gaining people, and where you’re not experiencing full engagement from people.
When we look at the data globally, we often see the research and attention on women at the top or on the board, but the biggest issue is really the drop-off at the middle-management stage, where women leave at about twice the rate men do.
We’ve found that male managers, despite being well-intentioned, often aren’t equipped to handle women in conversations about stress, flextime, remote working, what the company is willing to do, and other issues that they need to approach differently than they would for their male employees. When they understand why their female team members are at risk of leaving, and when they’re equipped to know how to respond, they can engage their female team members in an incredibly valuable way.
When I work with women’s business resource groups, one of my first pieces of advice is “Know your worth.” You should know what your economic worth is in the marketplace. You don’t have to be aggressive to ask the basic question of how a potential employer will measure that worth and the contributions you provide to their company.
If you’re a young woman, your supervisor needs to know that you care about promotion. You care about pay equality. You care about accurate performance reviews. You want to be rewarded equitably for your work. If you work in a company that isn’t willing to make this a priority, I think you have to ask yourself, “In the long term, am I going to thrive in this environment? Is this where I want to spend the foreseeable future of my professional career?”
Those are tough questions, but they have to be asked.
If I were a young woman entering the job market today, I would want to work for, and I would seek out, those companies that have a serious commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Reflections from Dr. Patti Fletcher
Pat, however, brings up an important point: the necessity of involving men in the process. If we truly want to achieve gender equity, it has to involve all stakeholders. Pat’s pragmatic optimism inspires me, too: when men “get it” and become an ally of feminist women, they can become the most powerful champions for women and evangelists of equitable practices.