• Katica Roy

More Women Leaders Won’t Magically Fix Inequity

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. 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™

 

Gender Diversity In Leadership Not A Panacea For Systemic Inequity

Question:

The companies where I’ve worked have usually had majority men in senior leadership (maybe one woman). These companies have had issues retaining women in middle management and it isn’t because these women exit the workforce. So I want to know: does a truly gender-diverse leadership team impact diversity in middle management, recruiting, retention, promotions, etc?

Curious about something? ​Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of Brave Souls®.

Answer:

Close your eyes and picture a CEO. If you pictured a man, you’ve just engaged in pattern matching. Congrats! Pattern-matching is normal, natural, and a sign that your brain is working efficiently. Women’s representation among Fortune 500 CEOs has never, in the history of global capitalism, reached double-digit percentages.

So why would your brain “waste” its creative energy to imagine a woman as a CEO? It wouldn’t because it’s a deviation from historical precedent. So when women do occupy leadership positions, it signals to entry and mid-level women that they have a viable path to progress in their careers at a given organization.

That’s part one of your question: gender diversity in senior leadership can improve the recruitment of women: 61% of women look at the gender diversity of the employer’s leadership team when deciding where to work. Makes sense.

However — and as your question alludes to, you can hire your way to diversity, but you cannot hire your way to inclusion.

You Can’t Hire Your Way To Inclusion


Recruiting women and underrepresented talent is not the same as retaining them. And bona fide gender equity is key to retaining them: 80% of women would leave their companies if they felt a different company offered greater gender equality. (Cue the leaky pipeline of women talent.)

Greater gender equality =

  • Equitable opportunities to advance careers

  • Equitable access to resources and training

  • Unbiased appraisals of performance

  • Equitable pay

  • Transparent promotion criteria and processes


Hiring or promoting more women into leadership positions — perhaps to meet quotas or to “perform” for the press — won’t patch equity holes in the employee lifecycle. In other words, more women in leadership isn’t a solution to systemic inequity. And that’s a good thing. Here’s why.

Men Need To Drive Progress Toward Equity

Men need to be the ones to drive progress toward gender equity. As 91.2% of all Fortune 500 CEOs and 76% of all C-suite executives, men have a monopoly on corporate power. It’s on them to change the system.


The subjects of inequity shouldn’t be tasked to fix a system they didn’t break. The subjects of inequity shouldn’t be tasked to fix a system they didn’t break. Besides, asking women to be the torchbearers of inequity can actually backfire.

Research published in the prestigious ​​Frontiers in Psychology found that the gender of a leader plays a significant role in their ability to mobilize support for gender equity initiatives:

“…men are doubly advantaged in mobilizing followers because they already possess a shared identity with both male and female followers: shared gender identity and dominant in-group membership with men, and shared cause (in the form of gender equality) with women.”

TL;DR

  • Yes: Gender diversity among company leadership can improve diverse recruitment.

  • No: Gender diversity in leadership is not a panacea for systemic inequity.


Curious about something? ​Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of this newsletter. © 2022 Katica Roy™, Inc.