Gloria Steinem said, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."
Though strides have been made to make for more gender-diverse organizations, the women’s leadership gap is pretty significant. Considering over 50% of the population is female, the following American Progress Org statistics show us there’s quite a way to go:
1. In academia, women have earned more PhDs for 8 consecutive years, but only 30% of college presidents and 32% of fulltime college professors are women.
2. In the world of finance, over 61% of accountants, 53% of financial managers, and 37% of financial analysts are women, yet only 12.5% of women are CFOs in Fortune 500 companies.
There are similar, and even more dismal, numbers across the board when it comes to leadership positions in politics, healthcare, and the legal profession. The percentage of women of color in these leadership roles is significantly lower yet. And these statistics don’t take into account the spectrum of gender-diverse individuals.
Gender equal workplaces don’t just fill a quota. In pro-diversity regions like the United States and Europe, gender-diversity is a significant factor in attracting new talent and leading to financial returns. Gender diversity also shows investors that the organization is well-run.
So, how can an organization take meaningful actions to create a more gender-diverse workplace?
1. Recognize the walls. Barriers to senior positions are very real. The good ol’ boys club – the after-hours comradery on the golf course, at a bar, on the racquetball court – is real. And they are real places of transaction and business that have left women out. If building client relationships veers toward these domains, find ways to include women. Change things up.
2. Recognize discrepancies. Most women who are primary breadwinners continue to be primary caregivers, whereas men who are primary breadwinners are usually not primary caregivers at home. What does this mean? A whole lot of work. Organizations must be aware of how limiting after-hour and early-morning meetings are.
3. Consider flexible work schedules. Clocking in and out can be a real barrier to achievement. Creating a system that works with goals, deadlines, autonomy, and accountability will give women a fair shot. Presence at the workplace doesn’t always mean productivity.
4. Evaluate the pay gap. Taking a wage audit of an organization and creating a strategy to peel at the pay discrepancies, can be an eye-opener for many organizations. This process should be transparent.
5. Value maternity/paternity leave. If your organization takes a look at the big earners, it’s probable there’s going to be a significant pay gap for mothers and caregivers, as women get penalized for taking time off to raise their kids (or care for parents). These “lost” years can prevent a woman from advancing in her career. As an organization, there are many ways to bridge this gap. Look into partnering with a daycare, after school program, local YMCA or other organization. Provide support to fathers who, statistics show, want to spend time with their children as well. Come up with paternity leave options.
6. How serious are you about women’s health? Birth control, mammograms, annual pap smears, mental health programs and more should be an integral part of your organization’s health program. It’s still shocking how women’s health – everything from periods to reproductive rights – are after-thoughts and considered “excess.”
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “An equal world is an enabled world.”
Instead of talking about empowering women, it’s time to talk about empowering the workplace through women. Improve employee engagement. Make a difference. These six actions are just the start.