By Alison Wurth:
Imagine what a world would look like where women were equally represented. How would American politics and the economy work? What would it mean to business if half the CEOs across the country were women?
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once said, “Men still run the world—and it’s not going that well.”This country is made up of 50% women. Every part of our society in which the majority of us participate in, should reflect that. Your office should reflect that. #5050Day Click To Tweet
Inequality on the Forefront
International Women’s Day and Equal Pay Day were both within the last two months. The #MeToo movement took over social media and dominated the conversation at recent awards shows. Things are all about the ladies lately and in 2018, it seems as though gender inequality is on the forefront. Gender inequality is constantly being discussed among friends, 24-hour news channels and (ugh) online comment sections.
The United States currently has 519,682 elected officials. These are people that represent the entire country. They should represent the values of the majority of the country. They should be a reflection of this incredible country with the most badass underdog story. But, do they look like us? No.
Congress is currently the most diverse it has been in U.S. history! Unfortunately, Congress at its most diverse is 81% men, which is a far cry from representation of a country thats population is composed of 50% women. And the government isn’t the only employer missing the mark on gender equality.
We only know what we have been exposed to. And personally, what I’ve been exposed to in Omaha, Nebraska – is quiet gender inequality. Call it, gender inequality with a sprinkle of ‘Nebraska Nice.’ Ahh, the good life.
I once applied for a job that I knew I was qualified for. It was the perfect “next step” in my career at that time and I was damn confident about it. I had my phone interview – it went great. I was given a written assignment – they were impressed with it and called me in for an in-person interview. I was feeling good about myself at this point. The interview went great! At the end of the interview we approached the usual, “Do you have any questions?” question. I had so many! I was excited about the position and wanted to know so much about the day-to-day functions and so on.
My last question:
“Do you have any hesitations about what I can offer here or about my qualifications?”
“Well…our team consists of mostly men. Men that are older than you. I think they would have a hard time taking instruction from you.”
I sunk. I kept it together, of course, but in the back of my mind, I was certain that was the end. And would I want to work with people that would look down on me from day one? Maybe not. But I also wanted so badly to prove them wrong. I received a call a few days later saying that he decided to go with another candidate.
This isn’t an isolated incident. At a former employer, a woman was fired after she returned from maternity leave because she “didn’t disclose her pregnancy during the interview process.” I’m fairly confident that’s illegal but ok.
So, What Can Companies Do to Lower Inequality?
Again, this country is 50% women. Every part of our society in which the majority of us participate in should reflect that. And so should your office, especially when it comes to leadership. The good news? The 2017 Fortune 500 included more women CEOs than ever, with a 50% increase from 2016. Unfortunately, even with that tremendous jump, we’re sitting at a total of 32 female chiefs. That’s actually just at 6.4% of the total list, which comes nowhere close to an accurate representation.
It isn’t easy to solve the challenge of equality in the workplace, but there are solutions to closing that gap. As HR expert, Tim Sackett, put it, “It took us a lot of time to get into this position, you don’t get out of it overnight.” However, Sackett and many others in the human resources field know just how crucial their role is in overcoming the issue:
“We – HR – own this. It’s not hiring managers. It’s not CEOs or CFOs or COOs. It’s you and me. If HR allows a hiring manager to make an offer to any candidate for less than others are being paid in the same role, and we don’t stop that, we own it!”
If you are a leader, in HR or otherwise, you have the power to make a change. For example:
- Inclusion starts from the top. Managers can set the scene for welcoming more diverse individuals and ideas and hold themselves accountable for doing so.
- Train for diversity awareness. Train EVERYONE on this from entry-level to executives.
- Consider your own biases. Many people understand the concept of unconscious bias but don’t believe it could ever affect them.
Along with those, your organization can make a commitment.
50/50 Day was April 26th. And, although that has passed, you can still join the thousands of organization, companies, schools and many more in the global conversation about what it will take to create a more gender-balanced world. Go to the Why I Pledge 5050 website and make your public pledge for yourself or your organization to do what you can to end gender inequality.