Working Women: Overcoming Barriers to Promotion
Despite the fact that 75% of women said that more changes are needed to achieve workplace gender equity, most are not associating their beliefs to their own workplace situations. A poll was taken from a LinkedIn group of about 1,800 professional women, who were asked “Does it matter what gender your boss is?” The results were staggering; 67 per% claimed that their manager’s sex does not matter, 23% acknowledged that they prefer a male boss, and only 5% preferred working for a woman.4 It seems then, that the solution to overcoming this gender gap has to stem from a shift in mindset rather than implementing new programs or initiatives (such as quotas or hiring practices). The goal of such an initiative is noteworthy for corporations wanting to stay ahead– businesses who achieve a healthy balance of gender diversity place at the top of the competition.
The most difficult aspect, however, is finding lasting solutions. Perhaps we can look to Deloitte, a leader in gender diversity, for overcoming this issue. The company has already saved millions in turnover costs, and their latest solution includes holding “Inclusion Labs” across their offices worldwide. These labs are one-day sessions, which were founded at the Leadership Centre for Inclusion at Deloitte University in Texas. The Inclusion Labs were first created in March 2013 to help clients define their diversity and inclusion issues and solve other relatable challenges. Each day includes many small group discussions, including participation by individuals. Topics of discussion include issues such as barriers to promotion, deeply held and subconscious biases, and stereotypes of both genders in the workforce. The sessions are also accountability exercises. “Becoming aware of those diversity metrics is a real eye opener,” says Deloitte partner Jane Allen, former Chief Diversity Officer in Toronto. “You might say men and women are treated equally, but when you look at the data, the gaps in the metrics are much more than you thought they’d be.”2 At the end of the session, each client is given a detailed report with an action plan for change.
Coming from an executive director of 10 years and mother of three, Melissa Kushner gives two points of advice for all working women. First of all, use your gender to your advantage. Men and women run organizations differently, and both can learn from each other’s unique styles. Embracing the unique perspectives you can bring to a company is a precious asset. Second, she states it’s vital to accept your individual strengths and weaknesses. A common discussion in the workplace, she points out, is the point about whether women should be as aggressive as men. Melissa advises that people in general can evolve through their experiences, but at the same time not worry about changing their fundamental traits that make them unique.
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1. “When It Comes To Workplace Sexism, Millennial Women Suffer Most.”Leadership. Forbes. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
2. “Diversity & Inclusion – New Programs That Work.” Career. Women of Influence. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
3. “Five crucial leadership lessons from a working mother.” Leadership. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
4. “Who do you prefer as a manager, a woman or a man?.” Management. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 16, 2014.