One of the most underrated aspects that startups fail to consider during initial periods is implementing a policy that supports diversity and inclusion. It’s very easy for leaders to overlook or not even consider these nuances when they’re sourcing people to help lead their organizations. A common misconception people believe when they hear buzzwords such as “diversity & inclusion” is quotas or hiring minorities for the sake of hiring minorities. While I believe that these are progressive steps superficially, it doesn’t actually tackle or solve the problems of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
On this post, I’d like to highlight gender inequality. Everyone knows (or at least are aware) that women all-in-all are paid significantly less than their male counterparts for the exact job responsibilities. So why is this? Consider this experiment from the University of Kent in Canterbury where participants were given CV’s of various applicants to fill a managerial position. What researchers found was that white men were more likely to fill those managerial positions based on leadership potential rather than a woman’s past performance.
Gnaw on that information for a bit and consider this next topic… glass ceiling (and bamboo ceiling, at a later date). Why do these terms even exists? The word has its roots in a Wall Street Journal in the 1980’s where it was used a metaphor to describe an invisible barrier that prevents qualified white women from achieving a certain level in the corporate hierarchy (worse for non-white women). Why aren’t more qualified women breaking into those executive positions…? And also why are there more CEO’s named John, Robert, William or James than there are women in ALL executive leadership positions in the S&P 1500? This finding was from an 2015 Ernst & Young report and the New York Times did further research and found the statistic is also translated into politics, where women hold about 20% of the current (2017) congressional seats (84 in the House of Representative and 21 in the Senate). Nonwhite women hold less than 7% of seats.
On the flip side, men benefit from a term called the glass escalator. Where white men assume leadership positions faster than women in predominantly female industries (“pink collar jobs” such as nursing, education, social work, and retail). Again, this glass escalator compliments the idea that men are more likely to assume higher leadership positions solely based on potential rather than a woman’s performance. Why don’t women benefit from a “glass elevator” in a predominately male industry?? Why is there such a double standard for women in the workplace (worse for nonwhite women)??
From the book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg says that the word “bossy” is used describe girls who asserts herself, but is never used to describe a boy. In fact, if a boy asserts himself, he’s branded as a leader. What’s so unsavory about a woman in a leadership position? In a Harvard Business Review study, women are viewed positively when they assume a support position (clerks, secretaries, assistants) to men; but viewed negatively when she tries to further her career (if she can break the glass ceiling). Take Hillary Clinton as an example… when she was Secretary of State she exited with an approval rating of 69% (for reference John Kerry had a rating of 48%), but had an approval rating of 39% when she was a candidate for President. Why do we discount women who have high potential to lead? Vice versa, why does society view men negatively who assume a more supportive role? Such as stay-at-home dads… Why is there such a stigma for men to assume caregiver roles?
Food for thought. Stay tuned for more.
Women in executive positions:
Few women run Fortune 1500 companies than men named John:
Women in congress:
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State vs Presidential candidate:
John Kerry as SoS:
Men’s potential vs women’s performance
Women in Support Positions: