Today is International Women’s Day and we are still 200 years away from closing the gender gap. Taking this sobering message on the lack of gender parity from the World Economic Forum, we launched our Gender Partnership initiative, #PartnerforProgress, on how men can champion women in leadership – in real terms.
As part of our #IWD2018 program, Marcus Sandmann, Director of Marketing, Thomson Reuters Australia and New Zealand shared this compelling message on how we can close the gender gap in our business community:
Inclusion and the role of men in championing women in leadership
There is a documentary currently on Netflix about Women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred. At the beginning of the documentary, Gloria states that there is a ‘war being waged against women’. That’s a pretty powerful statement, allowing one to think that since the beginning of the women’s movement for equal rights, what has really progressed?
While a lot has changed, it seems almost absurd that we are still talking today about the same topics that Gloria Allred championed over 40 years ago- equal pay and equal rights for women.
There have been huge changes for women in terms of employment in the past decades. Although more women are working, they are often still worse paid than men, and gender equality remains uneven.
So, what’s stopping equality in the workplace, and more so, women in leadership roles, and what do we, as men, managers and peers need to do to change our attitudes and behaviours?
Let’s start with changing our thinking based on faulty assumptions and/ or outdated views. Here are just a few myths that reinforce impediments for women in their career progression:
- WOMEN LACK ambition
There is the myth that we need to ‘Fix’ women in the workforce. The male attitude of women in leadership roles is that they lack the skills and aggression to succeed, or they avoid conflict, don’t take risks, they lack confidence, they’re too emotional.
When a man is direct, He’s labelled assertive but when a woman is direct, She’s labelled as aggressive or emotionally charged.
This myth falls apart when you change perspective and realize that it’s the system, not the woman, that needs repair.
- Quotas for women in leadership roles is unnecessary.
A common myth about the drive for more women in leadership is that they aren’t getting it on merit, but purely on gender. It’s hard to believe companies can’t find enough women for their top jobs when women make up 46 percent of the workforce. In 2009, women made up 64.2 percent of all higher education graduates. Women now make up 50.1% of the legal profession outnumber men for the first time ever, although they still hold far fewer senior leadership positions.
The lack of women in senior ranks is often used to justify their continuing exclusion from such jobs.
Instead of examining the barriers to women’s advancement, this argument perpetuates the assumption that while women may continue to enter the ‘pipeline’, they are unable or unwilling to reach levels of experience or tenure necessary for senior roles.
It’s not about the pipeline. We simply need to develop our female and male employees equally, grooming both for advancement.
This failure to be included in training, mentoring or secondments acts as a major impediment to entering the pool of candidates for promotion.
Furthermore, while equal opportunity policies have been successful over the years in advancing women’s workplace equality, we need to take into consideration career attitudes, values, and life goals when creating additional measures to promote equality.
This should be the primary rationale when examining barriers to women.
- Women’s careers get disrupted by childbearing/caring responsibilities
Childbearing/caring responsibilities and the impact on paid work and careers represents one of the most tangible differences between men and women’s workplace participation
Women’s career patterns, along with part-time or flexible working hours, are frequently quoted as the core stumbling block for women in reaching senior roles.
The disruption to established working hour norms continues to be regarded by many employers as a basic impediment to career progress, despite rhetoric around more flexible and inclusive workplace. Women report they are no longer offered the same opportunities as other male or childless female colleagues on their return from maternity leave.
While change to workplace policies such as building a culture that accepts flexible work and designing roles around flexible work is necessary, we need to shift the attitudes and assumptions that lead to such outcomes.
Practical steps for men in championing women in leadership:
As Gloria Allred likes to say, “Men of quality are not threatened by women of equality.”
I have been a people manager for nearly 20 years, and while have certainly developed my emotional intelligence and self-awareness skills as a manager over this time, I have always been an advocate for an open and equal workplace- regardless of gender, sexuality or religion.
The result of this has seen the loyalty and career development of many team members. I have mentored many a graduate and assisted their elevation to senior positions, regardless of gender. Many of my female ex-employees are now my senior marketing peers. I have been both mentor and, in certain environments, an advocate or sponsor for the inclusion and success of female employees.
Sponsorship is different from mentorship. Sponsors put their own personal capital on the line to recommend someone for a significant role or connect them to powerful leaders. We need more men doing this for more women.
The principal of creating a level playing field and promoting on merit, without bias, has paid dividends.
I challenge all men at TR to be men of quality and all managers and peers to embrace equality and inclusion!!
While we come together today to celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to use this time to remind everyone of a few steps on how to make a change in practice for an equal work environment:
Step 1: Consider your biases
- We all have unconscious biases that promote discrimination in our daily lives and in the workplace. Having awareness is the first step to fixing them. Start to action this by undertaking the TR training programs in MyLearning.
Step 2: Making sure all employees have the same access to opportunities
- If men are more likely to spend time with senior executives, work on the most important projects or meet the most valuable clients, they’ll be more impressive candidates for promotion. Companies and managers should establish development practices and policies so all employees meet the same standards as they progress through their careers, which helps ensure they all get the same exposure to training and opportunities.
Step 3: Get serious about work-life balance
- Not only should this be backed by workplace policies, to ensure employees aren’t leaving the workplace because of punishing hours or work rules, employers should give them more control over their schedules and not prioritize time in the office over delivering results (“face time over the bottom line”)
Step 4: Make sure everyone has access to mentors and sponsors
- Promote mentoring and sponsorship of talent equally across your team. Women do not necessarily have to mentor women. It should be based on personality types, experience etc. Embed this process within your team.
Step 5: Develop rising women and ensure experience in key roles
- Support ambition equally and normalise it within your team.