While much progress has been made since the age of the women’s suffrage movement, there is still quite a bit of difference in the way women and men are treated in the workplace.
This difference seems to be most prevalent in the gender and pay gap of corporate America. Gender bias against women exists, whether it is intentional or unintentional. To fix this gap, the mending has to start much lower than the senior-most levels. It must begin at the bottom of the ladder, where managerial promotions are more likely to happen. That “broken rung” is often what holds women back from progressing to the next level in their careers.
According to an article written in October by Sheryl Sandberg and Rachel Thomas for The Wall Street Journal, only 38% of managers are women as opposed to the 62% that are men. Fixing this issue will do much more than provide gender equality, though that is of equal importance. It will actually have a great impact on the economy and the quality of life of many U.S. citizens.
There is evidence that points to the fact that if women were involved in the workforce equal to men, as much as $4.3 trillion could be added to the U.S. economy in just six years. In addition, it would improve employee satisfaction and motivate employees to make a bigger effort since they know there is a chance at success and progress.
The gender and pay bias that has existed for centuries will not disappear on its own or overnight. It will take time, but more importantly, it will take companies’ senior management being honest and putting forth an effort to make significant changes.
The 2019 Women in the Workplace Report by McKinsey & Company offers some incredible statistics and food for thought when it comes to this topic. The following are five steps to get the ball rolling in the right direction:
1. Set Goals
Set and share goals of increasing the number of women in managerial positions. With clearly stated goals, it is much easier to develop a plan of action for teams to follow.
2. Diversify Applicants
Ensure there are two or more women in the running for management positions. This tends to lead to a better chance that a woman will be hired than having one woman running against multiple men.
3. Train Your Evaluators
The gender gap is not always intentional. In fact, it is often an unconscious decision. Putting evaluators through unconscious bias training has proven successful in companies that have smaller gender gaps.
4. Establish Clear Criteria
When companies have very clear criteria with which to evaluate candidates’ abilities, there is much less room to make decisions based on bias.
5. Prepare More Women
Companies need to take an active role in preparing women for managerial positions. There are three ways to do this.
a. Manager Support
This is when a manager is directly involved with an employee in ways such as recommending them for promotions, providing them with opportunities to show their abilities, and helping them determine what steps they should take in their careers. Training upper-level management to support women in their positions can go a long way in closing the gender gap.
When upper-level employees sponsor middle-level or entry-level employees, it opens many doors for those employees that they might not otherwise have. Companies should take a step toward implementing sponsorship or mentorship programs.
c. Unbiased Hiring and Promotions
All steps should eventually lead to ensuring that hiring and steps to promotion are void of bias. Establishing practices of equal processes toward hiring and equal pay for equal work can go a long way in employee retention and satisfaction.
Closing the gender gap in leadership roles is an important next step in the direction of business success. When companies make it a priority, they will begin to see an incredible change in their organizations, as women will be able to fulfill their potential and meet the goals of the company.
As opposed to putting the gifts and talents of women in a box, companies and the global economy can benefit from putting those gifts and talents to work. And, once it happens in one country, it sets a standard for others to follow.