Why It Doesn’t Have to Take Another Half a Century for Gender Equality in Leadership

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8 Companies Are Already Doing It

Research from various sources including the government, organizations, and scholars have acknowledged that gender discrimination is a systemic issue at the governmental, societal and organizational levels. Discussions have ensued in the form of reports, research, forums, papers, symposiums, documentaries, television shows, movies, plays and music about the causes and possible solutions relative to the lack of female representation in leadership within various entities.

The truth of the matter is that we can talk until we are blue in the face. We can continue to figure out why things are the way they are. I get it — that’s the logical process to find a solution. But enough already. It’s time to address the elephant in the room and grab the bull by the horns.

What is the foundation of any type of discrimination? Fear. Fear of losing control. Fear of losing money (greed). Fear of lack of opportunity. Fear of the unknown. Fear of Change. I could go on.

So are the rules that we continue this process of figuring out why women are underrepresented in senior leadership, write a paper, ignore what needs to be done, and repeat? That’s what happened with the Glass Ceiling Commission. The report clearly spelled out that gender discrimination exists, on what levels and recommended solutions. Some small gestures of companies reviewing their policies before the topic faded quietly into the sea of politics. And now here we are again in 2016, back at trying to figure out why and possible solutions (Don’t get me wrong. We still need research and other platforms to make the public aware, dispel excuses and to push reform, but more has to happen).

Leaders of Fortune 500 companies have expressed commitment to increase female representation in senior leadership at their companies. However, there are still less than 5% CEOs at these companies. I’ve listened to arguments that this is a great improvement from 20 years ago and that change is happening, but it takes time. I respectfully disagree. Change takes action. And at every level: government, society and organization. Here are examples of companies who have taken action and made parity happen:

According to data released by LedBetter, a research group that runs a database indicating the number of women in leadership at global consumer brands and companies, eight companies have achieved equality or very close to it:

The Gender Equality Index
(Female representation on Company’s board and executive team)

H& M Group
49.8%
Kerig
49.7%
Gap, Inc.
46.8%
Etsy
46.4%
Best Buy
45.5%
Prada
44.4%
Diageo
42.7%
Unilever
40.6%
Data: LedBetter; – June 12, 2016.

Additionally, governments have taken action in countries such as Norway, France, The Netherlands and Italy by adopting gender quotas in an effort to achieve gender parity within corporate organizations. Arguments abound whether quotas is a reasonable action; but nonetheless, it is a decisive action taken by leadership to resolve a problem.

Initiatives such as grants and volunteerism to support programs that address gender issues have also been established within communities. Again, these solutions may not be the only answer to eradicate discrimination; but it’s decisive action nonetheless.

Enough with excuses as to why females are underrepresented in the C-Suite. It’s past time to take aggressive action to make the workplace a level playing field for everyone. Let’s get it done.

Reflection:

What decisive action will you take to make gender parity in senior leadership a reality?

References:

Catalyst (1993). Successful initiatives for breaking the glass ceiling to upward mobility for minorities and women. Retrieved from Cornell University:
http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=key_workplace

Cornell University (n.d.). Glass ceiling commission. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/glassceiling/

The Economist (2005, July 21). The conundrum of the glass ceiling: Why are women so persistently absent from top corporate jobs? Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/4197626

Glass Ceiling. (n.d.). In Reference for Business online encyclopedia (2nd ed.). Retrieved from http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/encyclopedia/For-Gol/Glass-Ceiling.html

Ledbetter (2016). The Gender Equality Index. Retrieved from Ledbetter: http://www.getledbetter.com

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (1995). Glass ceiling commission issues report: Discrimination still deprives women and minorities of opportunities. Civil Rights Monitor, 8 (1). Retrieved from http://www.civilrights.org/monitor/vol8_no1/art7.html

United States Glass Ceiling Commission (1995). A solid investment: Recommendations of the federal glass ceiling commission – making full use of the nation’s human capital. Retrieved from Department of Labor:
https://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/reich/reports/ceiling2.pdf

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Nancy Kirk-Gettridge is founder of Phenomenal Image, an executive development firm focused on helping her clients gain confidence and take control of their careers. Confronting workplace challenges and her own limiting beliefs, Nancy is committed to helping her clients see themselves as qualified leaders and risk-takers. Nancy frequently writes about resolving gender bias in the workplace. Key topics include career management, leadership training/development, succession planning and overcoming workplace issues.
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