Stop Procrastinating On Your Gender Equity Goals
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.
Overcoming Corporate Inertia On Gender Equity
Why are we not making progress on gender equality? How do we create action around intersectional gender equity for corporations?
Curious about something? Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of Brave Souls®.
Failure to make progress toward gender equity is an experiment in corporate procrastination. Companies know they need to be more equitable. And not only that, companies want to be more equitable. In fact, 96% of CEOs list gender equity among their top priorities.
Yet we are still 151 years away from achieving gender equity in the workplace. Why? Let’s unpack it.
Why Is Gender Inequity In The Workplace So Difficult To Fix?
Gender inequity as a business problem doesn’t have a mainstream, clear-cut solution. We aren’t trying to grow sales, increase margin, or optimize cloud storage. We aren’t launching a new product line or holiday marketing campaign. We are seeking to close stealth and overt equity gaps in the workplace. At scale.
Where’s the playbook for that?
Companies Need A Gender Equity Roadmap To Overcome Inertia
To overcome corporate inertia on gender equity, leaders need a playbook, or roadmap, to move forward. A roadmap with a starting point, a destination, and a route to navigate toward that destination.
Starting point: This could be an audit of an organization's current state of intersectional gender equity. Companies run into trouble when their audits:
Capture only derivatives of equity—e.g. % of new hires who are women, and
Measure data in the aggregate—i.e. not broken down by gender PLUS race/ethnicity PLUS age, at a minimum
Audits are not solutions. They are static reference points that help companies measure the distance to their destination.
Destination: There’s only one destination: absolute equity across all intersectional cohorts. Companies run into trouble when they aim for relative equity through benchmarking, which is a race to the bottom.
Route: This is the navigation system. It must solve for systemic inequities, not surface-level ones. For instance, organizations will grow frustrated if they use annual pay equity studies to retroactively close pay gaps without eliminating bias from the upstream decisions that influence pay: performance reviews, potential evaluations, and promotions.
(Bonus) route optimization: Initiatives such as implicit bias training only serve as detours on the route because, as cognitive psychology teaches, it’s easier to act your way into new ways of thinking than to think your way into new ways of acting. In other words, the navigation system needs to propel companies forward by recommending equitable actions versus trying to change the way their employee base thinks. If we want to accelerate progress, we need to change systems, not people.
Creating Action Around Gender Equity
To create and sustain progress toward gender equity in the workplace, companies need a system to calculate their starting point, measure progress, and navigate them to absolute equity. Again, this system must account for the entire employee lifecycle and properly disaggregate the data.
At the policy level, the United States would be wise to pass a national pay equity law to hold companies accountable to progress. Such a law represents one of the most concrete and tangible ways to measure gender equity at scale. (See here for an excellent example of what a true pay equity law looks like.)
As James Clear says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” What system, or roadmap, is your company using to drive toward intersectional gender equity?
Curious about something? Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of this newsletter.
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