Corporate America is Not On a Path to Gender Equality

Originally posted at The Good Men Project

New research released today… This is not good news for women, this is also not good news for business. 

According to research released today from LeanIn.org and the firm McKinsey & Company, “it will take twenty-five years to reach gender parity at the senior-VP level and more than one hundred years in the C-suite.”

This is not good news for women, this is also not good news for business.

“Mixed-gender teams are more innovative (based on patent citations) than same-gender teams of either gender, and the conditions for high team performance are optimized at about 50% men and women,” said Ed Gurowitz, PhD and co-founder of the Gender Leadership Group… (Full Disclosure, I am also a co-founder of this leadership consulting company).

Among the key findings is that an astonishingly low percentage of employees believe this issue is a top priority for their CEO – or even their direct managers.

“Although 74 percent of companies report that gender diversity is a top CEO priority, less than half of employees believe that to be true.”

The research in this report is damning. We’ve heard reports like it before, but there are new insights raised here that suggest a way forward.

The report suggests three ways for companies to demonstrate that gender diversity is a priority:
Companies need to invest time and money in gender diversity. Companies should find ways to take action, from investing heavily in initiatives that support women and inclusion more broadly to reviewing employee compensation and closing pay gaps.

Executives can set the tone by participating in women’s events and publicly sponsoring high-potential women.

Finally, setting gender targets—and holding leaders accountable for reaching them—is another way for companies to demonstrate their commitment and emphasize the importance of results. We see emerging evidence that companies that set gender targets for recruiting and advancement will realize better outcomes. Among the twenty-five companies that participated in the 2012 to 2015 studies, those with gender targets over the three-year period saw the most progress in female representation at entry levels, while those without formal targets lost ground.

You may be asking yourself the same question I was, “how do we get entrenched male leaders to jump into the fray if they perceive more women leaders as a loss of power for men?”

In a recent post about Gender Intelligent Men by Cari Guittard, Professor of Global Management, Corporate Diplomacy & Women’s Leadership, Hult International Business School, said:
“Gender Intelligence, or the lack thereof, along with the predominant hyper masculine leadership styles that permeate every aspect of modern society, may be one of the greatest leadership challenges facing humanity today. If half the population is unable to understand, fully appreciate, and embrace the other half we will all collectively lose out.”

If Gender Intelligence is imperative to sustained success, then how does a company go about improving their Gender IQ?

“Most men aren’t aware that the old model of masculinity is outdated and ineffective in today’s culture. How do you find freedom from outmoded and destructive patterns of behavior that keep you from achieving success?” said Ray Arata, author, speaker and co-founder of the Gender Leadership Group. “Leaders who build teams to include different views and perspectives can create an environment where employees bring their whole selves to work – fostering creativity, innovation and higher productivity.”

While the conversation around healthy masculinity blazes on, the research from this report suggests the key may lie in understanding gender bias and engaging conversation around these biases with men.

Dr. Gurowitz agrees. “The biggest barrier to inclusionary leadership is individual and organizational biases and blind spots,” said Gurowitz. “When men are engaged in such a way that they become aware of the blind spots of unconscious bias and inherited (white) male privilege, the overwhelming majority take on breaking down these blind spots and the barriers they engender. Given the unfortunate but real fact that men still control most of the levers of power in companies, inclusionary leadership is impossible without engaging men.”

While headline issues like parental leave and equal pay attract attention, there may be an underlying issue here, which the report suggests… maybe it’s time we rethink work altogether.

“Work is not working for lots of employees.” – LeanIn and McKinsey

What do you think? Do you think we are on a path to gender diversity at work?

We, the Gender Leadership Group are speaking at the Global Women’s Leadership Summit in October, if you’d like to dive deeper with us into this topic.

Photo by Sam Churchill