The numbers and graphs in the report by Lean In and McKinsey & Company, Women in the Workplace 2015, support some beliefs, and challenge some myths, about why women remain underrepresented at the executive level of American business. What about gender bias? The report concludes that women are more likely than men to perceive gender bias. Of course they do! One of the recommendations of the study is training to “interrupt gender bias,” including to assure men can see and understand the challenges women encounter.
A friend recently worried aloud that men need protecting. Women are succeeding in higher education and may take over business! Relax. Yes, women are proportionately over-represented in the educated talent pipeline. But in business they are under-represented above the entry level, and under-compensated, compared to men. I’ll let others address why men are less successful in school and keep working on why women aren’t proportionately represented at the top.
The fourth article by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant is titled “How Men Can Succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.” About a third of the article is about how gender diversity at work is good for men (as well as women). They call it a “surprising truth” that “equality is good for men, too.” Research over at least a decade has confirmed the business value of gender diversity. So, to me, it is hardly “surprising.” The business case for gender diversity, however, can’t penetrate unconscious mind-sets. I want more spotlight on why women are not better represented at the top. I want the spotlight to be wider than on alleviating work-life pressures. We need to shine the light on, and uproot, the unconscious mind-sets that create obstacles for women in business.
In one news program this week, there was more news about women at work than about anything else. Germany is requiring companies to have women represent 30% of board members. Japan’s Prime Minister announced a goal of having women fill 30% of leadership positions. And Sheryl Sandberg is urging men to “Lean In.” With so much news coverage, could we being reaching a tipping point in people’s awareness of the business value of gender diversity?
Do women do more “helping” tasks (vs “working”) in your office? Yes, say Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. They get no credit from it at performance review time but are penalized in evaluations if they decline to “help.” “Helping (which includes planning events, helping a co-worker, taking notes in meetings, and getting coffee for others) costs energy and opportunities. Sandberg and Grant say men need to “acknowledge” this problem and then speak up. I agree that raising awareness is the starting point and hope their articles are raising awareness.