Why women are the makers of culture equality
Gender equality brings more inclusive and accurate decision-making
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an outsized impact on gender equality. Although both men and women have been negatively impacted, women have been hit much harder.
Women have less work, less income, and less job security now than before the pandemic, and the gender gap has widened, extending the estimated time to gender equality by 51 years, according to research by Accenture.
Society, including business, has largely been made by men for men. In the wake of COVID, women have an opportunity, really the obligation, to take on the role of “culture equality maker.”
Years of research show that greater gender equality benefits all of society: men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Not just the right thing to do, gender equality brings more inclusive and accurate decision-making; more innovation resulting in growth; better health; increased education; greater economic stability, and stronger workplace cultures.
Additionally, expectations for equality will only increase as younger generations, who are more concerned with culture, continue to join the workforce.
Shouldn’t all of these benefits mean that diversity is a top strategic priority for business leaders? So far in our history, that has not happened.
The new W20/Accenture report, “If Not Now, When?” unfortunately finds that most business leaders still rank diversity and workplace culture low on their list of priorities (34 percent and 21 percent respectively), favoring their top focus on financial performance and brand recognition (76 percent and 72 percent respectively).
What we need at this moment is bold business leaders who believe in and prioritize diversity and are committed to developing workplaces based on equality, empowerment, and other factors that help workers thrive.
I believe that women are well suited to this role based on our lived experience with inequity and our leadership aptitude (outscoring men on 12 of 16 outstanding leadership competencies in recent Harvard Business Review survey data).
Although there has been progress here and there, the decades-old statistics related to gaps in pay and opportunity still reflect women’s reality in 2021. It’s not just wages that are lopsided for women.
Although women-owned businesses continue to grow at a fast pace in our country, they lag behind businesses run by their male counterparts in funding, number of employees, and revenue.
This, despite the fact that companies with the most women on their executive teams outperform companies with the fewest women.
You’d be wrong to assume that companies seek out skilled leaders who could increase performance—at least if they are women.
Instead, women are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions during times of crisis or economic downturn where there’s a higher risk of failure, in what’s often known as “falling off the glass cliff.”
Most adults believe that male and female leaders have different leadership styles, but few think one gender’s approach is better overall, according to Pew research.
However, while men are seen as more willing to take risks, women leaders are perceived to be stronger in traits like compassion, empathy, and compromise. These traits make women highly suitable to lead in the most challenging situations.
In 2020, a record number of women replaced males as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies because they were seen as better able to help steer their companies through the volatile pandemic environment. There’s plenty of room at the top for women; we need to create a cultural path to get there.
The fact is that discrimination in pay, hiring, promoting, and funding are, and have always been, typical and accepted business practices when it comes to women.
As a result of the pandemic, many more companies are finally realizing that people can be trusted to work remotely. What else have they learned that may lead to more gender equality? I believe that as we recover, women have a unique opportunity to drive culture equality and make sure that all boats rise in workplaces across the country.