November 1, 2018. Approximately 20,000 Google employees around the globe protested the search giant’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. Workers presented a list of five demands to implement policy changes surrounding sexual assault and harassment.
What Google executives experienced that day can happen in some capacity to any company of any size — large or small, regional or global.
What’s important to note here is that a walkout isn’t just an inconvenience or a PR nightmare; it’s a genuine wakeup call to look closely at gender bias within your organization — and what it costs your company both culturally and financially.
Let’s take a look at what an employee walkout actually means and, more importantly, what you can do about it.
Walkouts Are Talking
Walkouts aren’t a new thing, so what’s different now? A growing awareness of gender bias as well as the #metoo, #timesup, #pressforprogress and many other equality-driven movements have powered an increasingly louder call from employees — men and women — for companies to take decisive action to close the gender equity gap in the workplace.
The issue impacts corporations around the world:
- Under Armour employees prohibited from expensing visits to strip clubs
- A lawsuit against Nike for a pattern of gender bias
- Wells Fargo female executives meeting to discuss gender bias in the wealth management division
- Gender bias uncovered in Amazon’s hiring algorithm
It’s critical for companies to address gender bias to understand where it exists and how it impacts their employees, company financial growth and the economy as a whole.
RELATED: Gender Equity as a Men’s Issue
What Corporate Walkouts Really Mean
Walkouts related to gender inequity are often addressed by hiring more women or increasing their pay. Considering that, on average, women are paid 80 cents on the dollar of men and make up only one in five C-level executives, these efforts, though well-intentioned, fall short of the needed changes to ensure true gender parity.
These are steps toward gender equality: the tenet that men and women should not experience different responsibilities and opportunities based on their gender. However, these actions aren’t enough to address the underlying problem: systemic gender bias, an issue that has economic implications.
In other words, a demand for equal pay isn’t just about the paycheck; it’s about how workplace conditions, culture and human capital management allow for unequal pay to begin with. A walkout over gender inequity isn’t only about hiring more diverse teams; it’s about revealing the unconscious bias that lives within even the most conscientious and committed organizations.
To address pervasive gender bias, companies must take steps toward gender equality and equity: fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs. If gender equality is the goal, then gender equity is the means. Of particular interest for companies is that bridging the gap to gender equity has positive financial results, too.
What to Do If Your Company Experiences a Walkout
A walkout is a daunting situation. But at the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to change the corporate culture for both men and women while improving your company’s productivity and financial outcomes.
As Meredith Whittaker, the founder of Google’s Open Research Group, put it, “[W]e need real structural change, not adjustments to the status quo.” In the face of a walkout, there are two critical steps to take. In order, they are:
- Take the pledge for gender equity. After the event, Google posted a company-wide message about its revamped harassment and diversity policies. Addressing the problem with a pledge to change is the first step.
- Take action. With an estimated 168 years to reaching gender parity in North America and 217 years to global parity, the World Economic Forum calls for “quantifiable commitments” to reaching gender parity. Effective action isn’t based on instinct; your company’s next steps need to be data-driven.
What’s to be gained by addressing the gender gap within an organization? A McKinsey Global Institute report found that achieving worldwide gender parity could add $12 trillion to the global GDP. Pipeline’s own research showed that for every 10 percent increase in gender equity, there is a 1-2 percent increase in revenue. Eliminating the gender equity gap is an ethical imperative and an economic opportunity.
Pipeline’s platform analyzes your organization including hiring, pay, performance, potential and promotion decisions, making recommendations to provide you with a clear path to achieving gender parity and realize the associated economic benefits.
A walkout is a wakeup call and an opportunity — for your employees, for your company and for the economy.