Where the Quest for Gender Parity Is Stalled: The Glass Ceiling Isn’t Where You Think It Is
One of the most talked about barriers to gender equity in the workplace is the glass ceiling. This invisible roadblock supposedly sits at the top of any industry, where the C-Suite and leadership positions are held by more men named John and David than women of any name.
Blaming the glass ceiling as the major hindrance to gender equity is misguided, however. That is because inequity exists among leadership positions all the way up the corporate ladder, right until one reaches the C-Suite. Most women don’t even make it to the glass ceiling to begin with. They face glass ceilings at every level of promotion and fall out of the leadership pipeline long before they reach the executive level.
We need to focus our efforts to remove these barriers and fix the leaky pipeline if we truly want to achieve gender parity.
Why Does the Glass Ceiling Exist?
The invisible barrier of the glass ceiling exists. Why?
To begin with, women aren’t perceived as being fully committed to the workplace. Even though they are the most productive employees over the course of a 30-year career, working mothers are “mommy tracked”, suffering a hit to their careers. Unfortunately, this perception and subsequent drop-off of women from the workforce costs businesses substantially.
The Glass Ceiling and the Leaky Pipeline
The real glass ceiling doesn’t sit between women and executive positions. It’s much lower, even in industries where women make up the majority of entry-level employees. As you climb the corporate ladder, it’s highly likely you’ll see fewer women around you.
- Women make up 51 percent of the entry-level workforce
- Women make up 40 percent of the mid-level workforce
- Women make up 32 percent of department heads and GMs
- Women make up 22 percent of top executives
This substantial drop-off is referred to as the leaky pipeline. Looking at the data, the glass ceiling sits at the top of entry-level work and continues with every promotion, continuously stopping talented women from making it to the most senior levels of corporations.
After all, women who continue with the climb are up against some difficult statistical competition.
- Men are promoted at 21 percent greater rates than women
- When there’s only one woman in a candidate pool, she has statistically no chance of getting the job
It’s no wonder that female labor force participation has fallen and continues to fall. In a recent survey, 80 percent of women polled said they would switch employers if they felt another company would offer greater gender equity. Of those surveyed, only 31 percent felt their current employer truly provided all genders with equal opportunities.
Missed opportunities for investment in female leadership have led some women to exit the workforce altogether as well, in a time when we can’t afford to lose their talents due to a projected labor shortage of 40 million workers by 2020.
Not only is our current workforce aging and retiring, but employees have a new edge in the economy. Low unemployment rates lead to more power in the hands of employees, who move within the workforce among employers without reliance on an employer that’s a bad fit. Beyond the United States, other countries are facing similar issues; Russia is projected to see 5 million fewer workers by 2025 and Japan expects a 2 million drop in the same time.
Not only are women the most educated cohort in the United States, but they also increase financial outcomes by bringing diversity to leadership. The diversity they bring to teams increases innovation and productivity. We can’t afford to lose talent to the leaky pipeline.
The Way Forward to Gender Equity
We must smash all the glass ceilings and patch the leaky pipeline. We must stop pattern matching men to leadership ahead of women. And we must remove the unconscious bias against female leadership. Here are two steps you can take today to move towards a more equitable workplace.
1. Ensure gender equity in internal hiring processes
One of the best ways to move toward gender equity is to base internal hiring decisions on facts and data. Look to industry averages to set your salaries and promote those who have consistently shown the results your organization needs — whether that be a woman or a man.
2. Promote female sponsorship
When you have one female in a leadership position, more female leaders are likely to follow. Sponsorship and a culture thereof opens the doors for up-and-coming leaders to prove their mettle and puts deserving talent in the positions they desire.
When diverse leadership exists, everyone benefits. Having women in management leads to a 19 percent higher return on equity and 9 percent higher dividend payments. When companies focus on increasing gender inclusion, they see better financial returns including revenue, profitability and lower volatility for stock if it’s publicly traded. Additionally, retaining female talent can save companies tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2X annual salary.
Pipeline Can Help
To address gender equity in your organization, Pipeline provides an actionable solution and a clear path toward gender parity. The AI-powered dashboard compiles your company’s data to see where opportunities exist to patch up the leaky pipeline and gain the benefits that follow. See how it works with a free demo.
Continue to part four, Toward a Solution: What’s Being Done to Achieve Parity at Home and Abroad, where Pipeline looks at gender equity initiatives around the world.