Covid-19 has had a disproportionately devastating impact on women in the workplace.
Between February and December 2020, the National Women’s Law Center reported that nearly 2.1 million dropped out of the labor force. According to Catalyst, 63% of senior-level mothers reported needing to revise their career goals or ambitions during the pandemic — more so than senior-level fathers (51%), non-senior mothers (43%), and non-senior fathers (36%).
Of course, gendered labor issues were prevalent before Covid-19, too. In a survey conducted in early 2020 by Kroll, a governance and risk advisory firm where I serve on the board, almost 60% of female respondents said their work environment had been affected by gender inequality.
As Anne O’Dwyer, a managing director and the firm’s EMEA regional leader, said: “There is still lots to be done, not just at government and corporate levels, but by men and women themselves in the workplace, in terms of hearing each other and supporting each other. It’s important for companies to make sure they are leaving space for women and men to work together in the best possible environment they can create.”
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In fact, the post-pandemic return to work presents the perfect opportunity to rethink gender equality. The World Economic Forum has even called it The Great Reset. So, as we recognize International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, I want to address a few questions. How can male leaders finally show up in support of women? How can they look beyond flexibility — which, at this point, should be a yawn-worthy given — and embed true equality into their company’s DNA? How can they get their acts together as the future of work barrels towards us?
1. Go Data Wild
Data and the future of work go hand in hand. And if leaders want to improve the workplace for women, they need to measure their progress (a step that’s rarer than it should be). One Mercer report found that while 81% of companies say they’re trying to improve D&I, only 64% track gender representation; fewer track hires, promotions, and exits by gender. The firm also found that only 42% of organizations have documented, multiyear D&I strategies, and only 50% set formal D&I targets.
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That simply will not cut it. As Jeffery Tobias Halter, author of Why Women: The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men, told Forbes: “A willingness to change means leaders must examine their organizations’ results, acknowledge they are not acceptable, and choose to do something about it. They must openly and publicly commit to embracing change.” Here are the metrics Halter believes every company should be tracking.
One company that leaders can attempt to emulate is Unilever. In 2020, it reached gender balance in global management: 50% women, up from 38% just a decade prior. It only accomplished this after a concerted, data-driven effort that included “gender-balanced interview slate requirements” and the tracking of senior leaders’ appointments of women. “Women’s equality is the single greatest unlock for social and economic development globally,” said CEO Alan Jope, “and having a gender-balanced workforce should be a given, not something that we aspire to.”
2. Eliminate Pervasive Biases
Every day, women confront biases that men do not. One common example is the likeability bias, wherein successful men are often liked more while successful women are often liked less. “The fact that women are outnumbered in every room puts them in a position where they’re often coming up against gender-based stereotypes,” explained Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst. “Women are too hard, too soft, but never just right. What that means is that women are seen as either competent or liked but not both.”
Male leaders must take concrete steps to reduce the impact of these biases, such as designing objective performance reviews. They should also practice “amplification,” a concept pioneered by the women of the Obama White House. When a woman makes a key point, male leaders should repeat it, giving credit to the woman who said it. This amplification forces other men to recognize the woman’s idea and prevents them from claiming it as their own.
To open eyes beyond their personal meetings, male leaders should also introduce something only 1 in 4 employees completed last year: unconscious bias training. Ninety percent of PayPal’s 18,700 workers, for instance, have participated in live, small group “conscious inclusion” workshops. In 2019, women held 35% of the company’s vice president and director roles — a number that is far from parity, but that represents a 9% increase in four years. “You have to invest in this forever,” said Louise Pentland, the company’s executive vice president, in regards to battling biases. “It’s not something you get a certificate for and then you’re an expert.”
3. Prioritize STEM-Skilling
Though much of the conversation around future job loss focuses on men, some experts believe automation poses an even greater threat to women. One such organization is New America, which reported “female workers in the US are currently employed in jobs that are at higher technical risk for automation than male workers.” Its research found that women account for 54% of workers in high-risk occupations, despite constituting less than 50% of the total labor force. Women are also poorly represented in tech, comprising a paltry 12% of engineers at Silicon Valley startups.
In a report on women and the future of work, the sustainable business consultancy BSR said: “Closing the gender gap in educational achievement and digital literacy will be crucial… to ensure that women and girls are well positioned in the future workforce. For business, supporting women and girls in STEM education can secure a talent pipeline of qualified and diverse workers.”
In that vein, some companies have taken matters into their own hands. McDonald’s piloted a partnership with Microsoft and Colorado Technical University to teach female employees data science, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. Accenture launched a STEM program for high school girls; after one event in Australia, the number considering a STEM career rose from 30% to 79%. “We realized the current pipeline of women in STEM at universities would not meet our demands for 50/50 recruitment targets,” said Bob Easton, managing director of Accenture ANZ, “so we are taking women with diverse qualifications and training them in core technology skills and applications. It’s opening up a lot of new opportunities.”
Moving beyond the pandemic and into the future of work, male leaders can — and must — play a major role in shaping a more equitable workplace for women. They must finally show up for their female peers by embracing data, combating biases, and putting STEM front and center.
As David G. Smith and W. Brad Johnson, co-authors of Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace, wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “As organizational change agents, male leaders must demonstrate vision, courage, and genuine collaboration with women to rework policies, practices, and systems in order to create a new normal in our post-pandemic workplace, as well as in society more broadly.”
Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwingard/2021/03/08/women-and-the-future-of-work-3-ways-male-leaders-can-support-gender-equality/?sh=44a249bc6338