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  • Katica Roy

Gender Equity Isn’t A “Count The Women” Game

Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

  • Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.

Be Brave™


The Diversity Delusion: When Is Enough Enough?


It’s come to the point where the men I work with believe they are disadvantaged when going for promotions against women. The sentiment is that managers have been rejecting qualified men only to hire incompetent women to meet their diversity targets. Is this reverse discrimination? How do we stop it?


There is no such thing as reverse discrimination. You're either discriminating or you’re not. Based on what you shared, I’m sensing two things.

  1. Gender fatigue has crept into your workplace.

  2. The line between diversity-as-a-business-imperative and diversity-for-diversity’s-sake hasn’t been established.

Let’s take these points one at a time.

Confronting Gender Fatigue In The Workplace

Gender fatigue indicates misalignment somewhere. It can occur between a host of variables.

You might have a misalignment between diversity and inclusion.

Does your workplace over-index on diversity and under-index on inclusion? Too much attention on diverse hiring and too little attention on inclusion spells trouble.

A company can hire all the women they want, but unless they create an inclusive workplace to support them, companies risk losing the very people they sought to attract. (The cost of replacing an employee ranges from 20-150% of their salary.)

You might also have a perceptual misalignment.

Is gender inequity really a problem in your workplace? Well, it depends on who you ask. Fully 67% of men say that most workplaces provide all genders with equal opportunities. Only 38% of women agree.

You could be experiencing misalignment between commitment and communication.

If you’re like most companies, you have committed to gender equity. (96% of CEOs say DEI is a strategic priority for their organizations.) Now, can you articulate why you made the commitment and how the commitment benefits your organization?

Conflicts arise from miscommunication. Effectively communicating why you committed to gender equity can reconcile the damaging information asymmetries that lead to gender fatigue. At the very least, do this when rolling out a gender equity strategy:

  1. Eliminate zero-sum beliefs that impede progress toward gender equity. All genders benefit from creating more equitable workplaces. For every 10% increase in gender equity, businesses see a 1% to 2% increase in revenue.

  2. Stop vilifying men. Men are not the problem. Rather, they are part of the solution. After all, men lead 82% of firms globally. They have the power to tip the scales toward equity.

Confronting Diversity-For-Diversity’s-Sake

Based on the information you provided, claiming discrimination against men in your workplace without additional data would be injudicious. Though considering how women lead only 4.6% of Global 500 companies and you can still count the number of Black CEOs in the Fortune 500 on one hand, rampant discrimination against (namely white) men in the aggregate remains unlikely.

I’m not denying anyone’s experience in the workplace. And the men at your workplace who feel disadvantaged by diversity targets aren’t alone. In Australia, for instance, 52% of men believe they are suffering from “reverse” gender discrimination.

However, this 52% stat underscores the problem with diversity targets. We can’t reduce people to checkboxes.

Gender equity is not a “count the women” game. Diversity targets carry little inherent value. Diversity targets, like all metrics, serve as proxies for something else.

When women represent 50% of your company’s leadership, what will that mean? What will have changed?

To confront diversity-for-diversity’s-sake, go back to the point I made earlier about effectively communicating your commitment to gender equity. Better yet, void rumors of reverse discrimination by providing transparency around pay, promotion, and performance reviews.

Why did so-and-so earn the promotion? What criteria did management use to evaluate the candidate? Are performance reviews based on key deliverables and not gendered notions of what it means to “be a boss?”

Data + transparency drive accountability and can extinguish doubts around DEI in the workplace.


These Q&As can be delivered directly to you—a week before I publish them here. Interested? Join the Brave Souls® community (all you need is an email address).

© 2021 Katica Roy™, Inc.


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