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Dear Corporate America: You Are Enforcing The Gender Divide

Culture

According to the “Women in The Workplace Study 2016", by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager, so far fewer end up on the path to leadership-and are less likely to be hired into senior leadership roles.


Consequently the higher you look in companies, the fewer women you'll see. The study was comprised of 132 companies employing more than 4.6 million people who shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices. Additionally, 34,000 employees completed a survey intended to reveal their attitudes on gender, ambition, work-life issues, and job satisfaction.

Getting more women into leadership roles.

McKinsey & Company's Joanna Barsh reports that women are moving forward, albeit slowly; women won approximately 30 percent of new U.S. board seats in 2015, compared to 19 percent in 2010 and almost six percent of Fortune 500 CEO's are women. Barsh said: “Give employees more control over their schedules and create flexible work environments and make programs that demonstrate to women in mid-level positions that they can get to the next level so their aspirations stay high."

Despite modest progress since 2015, women remain underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. At every step, the representation of women declines. Promotion rates of women lag behind those of men, and the disparity is largest at the first step up to manager-for every 100 women promoted, 130 men are promoted. In addition, external hiring is not improving the representation of women. Furthermore, the study found that companies hire fewer women from the outside than men, particularly in senior management, at a rate of nearly two to one.

The distribution of women and men in line roles is abysmal.

At senior levels women shift from line to staff roles, while the percentage of men in line roles remains approximately the same. By the time women reach the senior vice president level, they comprise only a 20 percent share of the roles. It gets worse, in 2015, 90 percent of new CEOs were promoted or hired from line roles, and 100 percent of them were men. Women of color face a steeper climb to the top. Though they make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, women of color hold a mere three percent of C-suite roles, despite having higher aspirations for becoming a top executive than white women.

Compared to white women, women of color also report that they get less access to opportunities and see a workplace that is less fair and inclusive. They are nine percent less likely to say they've received a challenging new assignment, 21 percent less likely to think the best opportunities go to the most deserving employees, and 10 percent less likely to feel comfortable being themselves at work. And while 78 percent of companies report gender diversity is a top priority, only 55 percent report that racial diversity is. A greater awareness of the problem and a serious commitment to addressing it is long overdue.

When perception mirrors reality.

Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions. They are also less than half as likely as men to say they see a lot of people, like them, in senior management, and they're right-only 20 percent of senior executives are women.

Not surprisingly, these inequities have taken a toll on women. Compared to men, they are less likely to think that they have equal opportunities for growth and development and more likely to think that their gender will play a role in missing out on a promotion, raise, or some other opportunity for professional advancement.

Women are more likely to face pushback when seeking promotion.

It's not all bad news: women are negotiating for promotions and pay increases as often as men. And women who lobby for a promotion are 54 percent more likely to report getting one than those who don't.

But the bad news is that women who negotiate are disproportionately penalized for it. They are 30 percent more likely than men who negotiate to receive feedback that they are intimidating or too aggressive or bossy and 67 percent more likely than women who don't negotiate to receive the same negative feedback. Ultimately, despite lobbying for promotions at similar rates, women are on average less likely to be promoted than men.

When commitment to gender diversity rings hollow.

Companies are struggling to put their commitment to gender diversity into practice, and many employees do not see it as a serious priority. Seventy-eight percent of companies report that commitment to gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, up from 56 percent in 2012. But this commitment does not always translate into visible action. Fewer than half of employees think their companies are doing what it takes to improve gender diversity.

Evidently the case for gender diversity is not reaching employees, or they worry they will be disadvantaged by diversity programs that are not fair. However, it's duly worth noting that if the workplace was inclusive and fair now, the corporate pipeline would more closely mirror the general population.

Steps for companies to take to advance gender diversity.

1-Make a compelling case for gender diversity.

Senior leaders have a crucial role to play, from talking more often and openly about gender diversity to modeling their commitment in their everyday actions. Although 62 percent of senior leaders say that gender diversity is an important personal priority, only 28 percent of employees say senior leaders regularly encourage an open dialogue on the topic.

2- Make hirings, promotions and performance reviews fair.

While 93 percent of companies report that they use clear and consistently applied criteria to evaluate performance, only 57 percent of employees believe that managers do this in practice. As an example, blind resume reviews are a relatively simple way to minimize bias, yet only four percent of companies say they do this.

3-Invest in more employee training.

Employees need to understand what steps they can take to get to equality, yet they clearly need more guidance: only 28 percent of entry-level employees and 51 percent of middle managers say they know what to do to improve gender diversity in the workplace.

4-Accountability and results.

Only 40 percent of companies report that they hold their senior level leaders accountable for performance against gender diversity metrics, and employees are even less likely to see this in practice: only 32 percent of employees report that senior leaders are regularly held accountable, and nine percent report that managers are recognized for progress on gender diversity. Only 44 percent of companies set pipeline targets, and even fewer set targets for external hiring and promotions. Targets matter because it is easier to track and make progress when a company has clear goals in place.

In summation, companies have a crucial role to play in reaching gender equality, and we will all benefit when they succeed. Ultimately, a more inclusive work environment will lead to more engaged employees, which will lead to stronger, more productive organizations. And that's the bottom line.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.