It’s Time to Close the Gender Gap. How?

Busting Bias

To achieve equity in the workplace, we must understand how our actions or inactions amplify or support the systemic dynamics already in place.

by Robin Pedrelli

Despite progress made over the last decade, we’ve yet to achieve gender equality in the workforce. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, it will take 132 years to close the global gender gap and 59 years to reach gender equality in the United States. McKinsey & Company’s 2022 Women in the Workplace report reveals that for every 100 men who are promoted to manager, only 87 women and only 82 women of color are promoted. This problem is compounded over time, with women making up 48 percent of the workforce at the entry level but just 28 percent at the senior level. And women are leaving leadership positions at an alarming rate. In fact, McKinsey reports that for every woman promoted to director level, two women directors are choosing to leave.

So what do we do about this? I would argue that the challenge is not just about solving the problem but more about a willingness and commitment to address it. To achieve equity in the workplace, we must understand how our actions or inactions amplify or support the systemic dynamics already in place. To close the gender gap requires understanding, commitment, and action.

To create strategies that produce desirable outcomes, organizations must first acknowledge the problem and understand what’s driving it. To get at the root of the problem, measure both diversity and inclusion. Look at your demographic makeup, promotion rates, development opportunities, and access to mentoring and sponsorship. Examine your policies and procedures—from where and how you source talent, to your interview and onboarding processes, and your level of equity in company policies, in compensation and benefits, and in performance/talent management procedures. Assess employee experience as it relates to access to leadership, social inclusion, work-life
balance, recognition, and well-being.

Once the problem is defined, there needs to be a willingness to address it. Leaders must consider barriers that limit success, have the courage to make difficult or controversial decisions, and confront any resulting pushback. If the goal is to end disparity and dismantle the barriers that prevent women from advancing, then we need to acknowledge that fair outcomes require us to treat people differently. To close the gap, we may need resources, development, and leadership programs that focus on women, and we need to stand by those programs despite resistance. We need measurable goals, and talking points to counter arguments that these goals result in favoritism in hiring or promoting less qualified candidates. We need to address microaggressions, bias, and other behavioral norms. This is where organizations often fall short—they’re not willing to deal with scrutiny or backlash even though they know these programs are justified and necessary.

Finally, take systemic action. To effectively combat disparity in the workplace, your DEI strategy should tackle three key areas: organizational culture, individual behaviors and attitudes, and policies and procedures. You need to set achievable goals, institute policy changes, and hold people accountable. To ensure buy-in and engagement across the organization, support those policies with training, resources, and opportunities for dialogue. Policy changes without engagement are doomed to fail, and training without policy change will result in nothing more than short-term awareness building. Instead of trying to fix one thing or address one issue, focus on transforming your organization so that all people can succeed. DW

Robin Pedrelli is a co-founder of VisionSpring, Inc., a DEI consulting firm certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council that offers strategic consulting, training, and e-learning solutions.

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