Most of us work at a company that condemns overtly discriminatory remarks and has strong policies in place, along with an escalation path, for people to voice their concerns if this ever happens. That’s great. But hardly enough.
Once upon a time, I was called “high-maintenance” and “not a team player” when I complained to a superior about my male manager stealing my job. You can read more about this here. Back then, after the rage passed, I dismissed the situation. Yes, the situation was definitely a huge mistake from both male superiors, but “boys will be boys.” Right?
More recently, as I have worked with more women through my executive and life coaching programs, I need to reevaluate my view of my experience. My clients had shared feelings of being discriminated against or dismissed because of their gender. However, they usually are not quite sure if they were subject to a discriminatory practice or if it was something they did.
Let’s examine this together, shall we?
Is this all in my head?
Most women are unsure if their career development is slower than their male counterparts because they lack the necessary skills or because of gender bias at their organizations. And often, women will attribute their stagnation to their fault: I am not good enough.
However, the statistics show otherwise. According to Whitty-Collins in her book “Why Men Win at Work,” men hold more than 80% of US corporate board positions. Only 34% of members of the UK Parliament are women. UK Women In Journalism reported that men typically write 80% of front-page stories and 84% of those stores center on men. In a nutshell, we are used to seeing men in power as a society. Thus, we will naturally be more willing to open up the path to success to men than women.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, in their book “The Confidence Code,” described that society assumes men are “competent until they prove otherwise.” However, this assumption works the other way around for women.
The fact that women need to prove their competence before getting to their next position stalls their careers tremendously.
Selena Rezvani, in her book “Pushback, How Smart Women Ask- and Stand Up- for What They Want,” established that, on average, women apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the requirements. In contrast, men apply when they meet 60% of the criteria. She also concluded that women ask for 30% less salary than men when negotiating for a higher position.
On top of that, Whitty-Collins stressed yet another factor that blocks women’s career development: the “mini-me syndrome.” We tend to hire, mentor and promote those we perceive to be similar to us, our “workplace clones.”
If men have most of the higher positions and determine who is the fittest candidate to go up the corporate ladder, you guessed it correctly: they will tend to hire and promote more men. And not only men, probably they will be white men, but that’s a topic for another post.
So if you are a woman doubting if your career is behind because of something you did or didn’t do, the chances are that you are just part of a system ruled by men. And we, as a society, remain unaware of the full extent of men’s privileges and our psychological bias.
So here’s what you can do as a company.
This complex scenario is not something one individual nor one company can fix. It should be a collective effort to stop contributing to the inequity at work. But since we cannot control the whole world, only our surroundings, I want to propose to you the following:
- Review your current compensation scenario: take a look at the compensation by position and divide it between men and women. The results should be that you equally compensate employees with a similar job with similar responsibilities. If you see a mismatch between them, raise your hand to get that fixed.
- Analyze your last promotion cycles: make sure you are not following the natural trend of promoting more men than women. If you are a manager, make a conscious effort to review your female direct report’s skills and encourage them to take risks and apply to higher positions.
- Take an active part in salary negotiations: suggest a fairer compensation if a female candidate you want to hire is asking for less than her male counterparts. I know that all companies want to decrease their headcount expenses. But if you were willing to pay more since the beginning, why wouldn’t you do your part in closing the salary gap between genders?
I know this is just a drop of water in the ocean, and any changes we can make will not fix the problem. But a tiny step is better than no steps at all.
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