MUCH of the workforce will respond positively to changes suggested in Anne Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Addressing the difficulty of working a demanding job and having a family, she suggest “changing the culture of face time.” This is more than a women’s issue; it is a generational issue affecting large sectors of the workforce. Members of Generation X and Millennials “want a life.” Leaders who address the need for more flexible work schedules will see improved engagement and retention; those who don’t will see disengagement and turnover.
Reactions to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the Atlantic have included that neither men nor women can “have it all.” This is now an issue for men as well as women so it is more important for employers to implement the changes suggested in the Slaughter article. Not only will those changes benefit men and women, they will help employers retain women, who suffer the most from the “have it all” issue. But employers must also create inclusive cultures that allow women as well as men to feel valued and included. Such a culture helps a woman handle the juggling of career and family and allows more women to reach the top. This enables employers to reap the benefits of gender diversity in leadership.
When experts name reasons why women are not proportionally represented in business leadership, they include women not supporting other women. Catalyst reports that the Queen Bee is less and less a factor. A Queen Bee is a woman who likes being one of few women in a group and prefers working with men. Some sabotage or bully other women. I hope to make such women aware of their behavior, aware of the business value of gender diversity and aware of the strengths of feminine ways of working–and thus make the Queen Bee extinct!
When asked “haven’t women made lots of progress?” I am reminded of the cigarette slogan declaring how far women had come. As Gail Collins chronicles in her book “When Everything Changed,” since 1960 there have been major shifts in norms and attitudes about what women can and should do. In the 60’s most middle class women worked only at home. Now women are CEO’s, Supreme Court Justices and Secretaries of State. Women have more choices. Hurray! BUT women entered jobs traditionally held by men 35 years ago and still aren’t proportionally represented on the upper rungs of the ladder. We have a long way to go before the “glass” is full enough!
Diversity in the workplace is unlikely to be either successful or sustainable if the culture isn’t inclusive. Inclusion is about how people experience the workplace. It is inclusive if as many people as possible feel valued, sense they belong and feel they can succeed. I suggest practicing inclusion on one group, women, who remain “minorities” at the upper levels of business. Leaders should determine if there is gender diversity or if retention and promotion of women is an issue. Study the numbers, turnover rates, engagement and causes of women’s disengagement.