POST WRITTEN BY: Janet Zaretsky
Master business success coach for executive women and small business owners, corporate trainer, speaker. http://www.janetzaretsky.com
Women are underrepresented at every level of business, though they make up more than half of college students today. But despite this knowledge, we have yet to move the needle significantly. That is not to say there has been no progress — there has, but it is incredibly slow.
Look at pay: A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2017, women who were full-time employees only made 82% of their male counterparts’ salaries. The gap is even worse if you are a woman of color. If changes in the wage gap continue at the same rate, it will take until 2059 for women to earn the same as men.
Consider the boardroom: Less than 5% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women. While women en
ter the workforce on the same footing as men, the further up the corporate ladder you go, the fewer women you find.
These inequalities likely aren’t news to many leaders, especially women, as gender differences in the workplace are widely written about. But the question remains: What can we do? I believe educating ourselves and others is a good place to start.
The reality is that when it comes to leadership positions, many Americans believe women are held to a higher standard than men. Some even cite “family responsibilities” as an obstacle standing in the way of female leadership. Negative language is often used to describe women in performance reviews, and when most people are asked to picture a leader, they imagine a man. In my opinion, it is prevailing beliefs such as these that are responsible for slowing down gender equality.
But it’s important to note, it’s not always men who think this way. Unconscious biases can affect us all, including women. How can we, together, impact this?
• Be a champion for other women’s success. If we stand in the view that one woman’s success is a win for all women, we can become supporters of one another. If you wonder how she achieved success, ask her. I believe we can develop our own skills by looking to others who are in positions we aspire to reach. Other ways we can champion another’s success include publicly acknowledging a female co-worker in meetings and calling out or interrupting when someone says something demeaning to another woman. Social media is a great medium to highlight our successes, whether it is someone you know or sharing an article that highlights the success of a woman. Be the cheering team for women’s wins.
• Examine your own biases. Many people are unaware of their own gender bias. The first step is to look at the areas you might be instilling these biases. For example, are you categorizing leadership traits as male or classifying powerful, outspoken women as aggressive? If so, this is your opportunity to examine and interrupt your bias. If you observe this behavior in others, say something in a non-threatening way. An example might be: “I also used to see that as aggressive, but then I realized if that same behavior were coming from a man, I would have thought he was a great leader. I recognized the gender bias. Can you see that, too?”
• Speak up, get heard and contribute. As a female leader, it’s probably pretty likely that at some point in your career, you’ve been interrupted by a male colleague. Although bias demonstrated in this way isn’t something you can necessarily control, I believe there are a few ways you can get others to listen. When you are in a meeting, be intentional about being heard. If you contribute an idea and it is not acknowledged, but another person repeats it and is acknowledged, turn to him or her and say something that makes it clear the idea was originally yours, such as, “Thank you for reinforcing my idea.” In other words, be sure you are given the appropriate credit for your brilliance.
With some simple, yet persistent, changes, I believe we can have an impact on gender inequalities. It’s time that all women support one another in our successes and are intentional about recognizing and altering our own and others’ gender biases. Our brilliance is needed. Women, when banded together for a common cause, can change the world. We were not simply given the right to vote, own property or earn a college education. We fought for those rights, and eventually, we won. We can improve the workplace, too.