The economic outlook of my home state, Colorado, was downgraded in 2018 due to lack of access to skilled labor. Colorado isn’t alone. The US as a whole is facing a workforce shortage of 5 million workers, and if you examine this situation on a global level, you’ll find the labor force shortage jumps to 40 million workers.
Women Are Not Broken. The System Is.
The common refrains around gender inequity paint women as the problem that needs fixing. Those refrains tell us that by teaching women to negotiate, communicate, and apply for jobs, we could tap into half or more of our labor pool.
These “solutions” fall short because women aren’t broken. The system is broken. We see this as evident in declining labor force participation among female workers coupled with a leaky pipeline to the top of companies.
What we need are solutions to address the global workforce shortage — ones that include our increasingly most educated cohort.
We need a solution that focuses on valuing women and bringing the full power of their skills and diversity to the table.
We need a solution to achieve gender equity in the workplace once and for all.
What Gender Inequity in the Workplace Looks Like Today
In the last year, we’ve added 47 years to the time to global gender equality. This means that today, we must wait 217 years before realizing gender equality. In North America, the worst performing region of the seven global regions analyzed, the time to gender equality sits at 168 years.
How do we explain what’s happening? Gender bias. And the way it’s playing out in the workplace might surprise you.
Here are some other, less quoted, examples of gender bias in the workplace:
- Have only one woman in your candidate pool? There’s statistically no chance she’ll get the job.
- Time for a promotion? Men are promoted at 30% higher rates than women at the first level promotion.
- Workplace problems causing a rift? Ninety percent of women leave the workforce due to reasons other than having a child.
- Have a child? Women with children have their wages penalized by around 10-15% compared to women without children.
- Trying to encourage more women to enter a field in STEM? It turns out that 50% of women in STEM fields will leave eventually due to hostile work environments.
- Have you reviewed your sales staff recently? Statistically women are better sales professionals than men, yet women are not only paid less than their male sales colleagues, they’re also a lower percentage of senior sales staff.
- Do you know your company’s executive make-up? In a study of 21,980 firms from 91 countries, just over 50% of firms didn’t have any female executives. Only 11% of firms had all female executives.
We need to address systemic gender bias. We cannot focus on “fixing women” when it’s the system that’s broken.
Our Current Solutions Aren’t Enough
Solutions to close the gender gap have largely focused on two areas: women’s leadership programs and implicit bias training.
Women’s Leadership Programs
Women’s leadership programs center around closing the perceived gap in women’s efficacy in the workplace. As mentioned above, these programs often include topics such as negotiation, communication, and confidence-building (e.g. applying for jobs).
And while men have increased their roles as allies and sponsors in helping women succeed, there’s still a problem with focusing on women.
Gender inequity impacts women and men. In a world where 48% of working fathers would like to stay home, where women take on almost twice as much unpaid work as men, where men are seeking new tools to break out of the “man box,” we simply cannot afford to focus on women and leave men out of the conversation. We all must embrace a new reality that values both feminine and masculine roles equitably.
Implicit Bias Training
That’s not to say all hope is lost with implicit bias training, we just can’t think of them as the silver bullet.
Closing the Pay Gap
To complicate matters further, even as companies increasingly commit to closing their gender pay gap, they still don’t have an ongoing solution to address the issue. Many will launch multi-month gender pay gap studies to determine their gender pay gap.
The study concludes and the company closes their gap — another arduous process — only to be faced with a new reality:
The very next day after closing their gender pay gap, they could make a pay decision that engenders the very gender pay gap they sought to fix.
It’s why Salesforce has called closing the gender pay gap a “moving target.”
The Right Way Forward: New Solutions to Gender Inequity
We don’t have to wait 217 years. Achieving gender equity in our lifetime is possible with solutions that are inclusive of women and men.
Change the Narrative
First let’s change the narrative of gender equity as a synonym to women’s rights and instead focus on women as 50% of the conversation and men as the other 50%.
Let’s start highlighting how gender inequity impacts men and holds them back too. Let’s stop making men the problem and instead bring them into the solution.
Related: If Stay-At-Home Dads Were The Norm
Put Gender Equity on a Spectrum
Second, with our new focus, let’s stop making gender equity a binary issue that dictates whether you are for it or against it. Instead, let’s view it as a continuum and meet people where they are. I certainly didn’t agree with James Damore’s stance on gender inequity.
However, he is representative of a group of folks, and he believes what he believes. We should meet people where they are and bring them along.
Embrace Advanced Technologies
Finally, to close the gender equity gap in our lifetime, we must embrace the advanced technologies of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital economy. We no longer keep our company records on paper as the sole system of record. Let’s embrace gender equity solutions that leverage new technologies.
Finding a new and advanced way forward in tackling gender inequity will lead us to achieve gender equity in our generation.
Enter Pipeline: The Data-Driven Approach
The Pipeline platform is one such technology. With the Pipeline platform, gender equity becomes a quantifiable, data-driven, economic opportunity rather than a confusing and controversial social issue.
It operationalizes, at a microeconomic level, the business case for gender equity. It moves companies toward gender equity with every single human capital decision, making it possible to do good for shareholders, do good for employees, and make money.