I’m a market researcher and have worked in a male-dominated industry my whole life. I’m 56 years old and, in the beginning of my career, I never thought about whether I was getting paid less than my male colleagues at my same level. If I had been compensated an additional 30% to match the salaries of the men, what could I have done with all that money?
Women control more than 85% of all purchasing decisions. Yet 40% of women don’t identify at all with the women they see in advertisements, according to a study by Unilever. Women are portrayed as leaders in less than 3% of ads. Women don’t see themselves in the media, or in the work world. Perception becomes reality.
The rules of work were written 100 years ago for men and by men, because women simply weren’t in the workplace. Now that women are entering at 50/50, we need to adopt a conscious mindset—an equality mindset—and hold ourselves accountable.
Legacy runs faster than reality, meaning if we continue at our current rate of progress, we’ll never catch up and close the gap. We have to stop talking about the issue and start taking real action. In order for women in middle management to rise up into leadership positions, we need to create cultures of care where both men and women can thrive at home and at work. When you put women into any equation, the equation gets better. Here are some ideas on how we can create the workplaces we want to see.
Own your strengths. Sarah Jessica Parker was right when she said, “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman.” Early in my career, I discovered that I had to find my voice, own my strengths and bring my feminine values to the workplace. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.” If we were all the same, we wouldn’t be necessary. Our differences are what makes the world go around. Those feminine strengths, such as intuition and empathy, that may have traditionally been ignored are actually your leadership superpowers in today’s workplace.
Practice life-stage profiling. Arianna Huffington once told me that she doesn’t understand why we do exit interviews. It’s obviously too late to fix the problem—they’ve already left. I started thinking about this idea. What if we do life-stage interviews? People require different things at different life stages in order to thrive. For example, we need different things when we have small children versus when we’re caring for aging parents. Culture isn’t one size fits all: Let’s make workplaces work for all by pinpointing what individuals need to succeed.
Realize that unconscious bias is an excuse once you become aware. Once people become aware that there is a pay gap or that corporate policies are not allowing women or minorities to thrive in the workplace, it’s no longer unconscious, it’s conscious. A key to changing workplace culture is to become conscious of our unconscious, and then actively work to reverse these thought patterns. Putting the right policies in place can help.
One policy that I believe can help minimize hiring bias and the “motherhood penalty” is mandatory parental leave. Studies show that men may be hesitant to take parental leave due to fear of being penalized at work. However, the more that men see other men taking parental leave, the more it will become the new norm. Making leave mandatory for both men and women can help level the playing field in the workplace.
Know that diversity isn’t just about gender, race, age, and sexual orientation, but about mindset. People tend to hire others who think and act like them. Have a diverse talent pool and diverse hiring team. You can fill the pipeline with diverse candidates, but if your hiring team isn’t also diverse, you will likely end up with more of the same.
Shut the door on the wage gap and open a new one. It is 2018 and women still don’t get equal pay for equal work: in general, the average woman earns 80 cents for every dollar that the average white man earns. The gap is even greater for minorities: For example, black women make 63 cents on the dollar, while Latinas make only 54 cents.
Do not base current pay on past salary, or else women’s wages will never catch up. At the rate we’re going, it will take 217 years to close the wage gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. I don’t know about you, but I definitely can’t wait that long. This shouldn’t be so complicated. Let’s start with the premise of equal pay for equal work.
Follow the “Platinum Rule.” We talk about the Golden Rule, which is “do unto others as you’d have done unto yourself.” Today we need the Platinum Rule, which is “do unto others as they’d want done unto themselves,” because what might be good for me, might not be good for you.
Let’s say you’re a woman in the workplace, and you feel uncomfortable when a male colleague tells you that you look nice. Instead of reporting the incident to HR, say, “That makes me uncomfortable.” Let’s educate each other, and create awareness for where we are and where we need to go. This will go a long way towards building respect in the workplace.
Remember that leadership isn’t about title, level or age; it’s about action. Every one of us has responsibility for making a difference. It’s not about action from top down or bottom up, it’s all around. Don’t forget to amplify others’ voices and bring everyone into the conversation.
Have an equality mindset, and accountability for change. A key for building truly inclusive workplaces is having leaders with an equality mindset, where we’re able to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Organizations who have leaders embodying the purpose of equality will bring others along with them.
Take the CEO of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, who asked for a 4.6% pay cut to match that of his female predecessor to show that the company is taking its equality initiatives seriously. He’s setting an example for employees of all levels that the equality health of the organization is more important than his personal gains.
Don’t just “fix” the women; coach the men. Mentorship, sponsorship and coaching are all key for helping women rise up into leadership positions. Let’s stop fixing the women. We’re not broken. Let’s also coach the men. We should educate both men and women on the new lens needed to navigate the workplace today.
Embrace “we for we.” We respelled the word feMENism to include “men” because we’re all in this together. Women are 50 percent of the population, and we can’t transform culture without working together. This means that both men and women are essential for creating the new rules when the old rules are no longer working.
It’s time to shut the door of the past and open a new door for the future. As Yoda said, there is no such thing as trying; you either do it or you don’t. Let’s rewrite the rules of the workplace, together.