GUEST POST by Ben Schick,
Institute for Gender Partnership
Guys, there’s a far-reaching movement afoot, and believe me, you want to get in on it. If you don’t, you’ll put your business at risk and miss out on huge opportunities to improve your wealth, your health and the well-being of your family and society at large.
The data is clear. Resolving the gender imbalance in business will increase your profits and boost the productivity of your teams. Companies with top-quartile representation of women in executive committees perform significantly better than companies with no women at the top. They also average a 47% higher return on equity and 55% higher earnings before interest and tax.
Resolving the gender imbalance also means you will retain the best talent and be able to compete and win in the 21st century. The Pew Research Center tells us that baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 15,000 a day for the next 10 years.
We know our universities are not graduating enough talent to replace them. What’s more, women now make up nearly 60% of college grads (which means men make up a scant 40%). This means women will be writing their own tickets at the companies that know how to include and reap the benefits of their education and complementary skills.
Resolving the gender imbalance will also give your company the internal expertise to understand, attract, and retain customers. Approximately 80% of consumer decisions (including choosing cars and buying electronics) are made by women. The big business opportunity of this century doesn’t just lie in China, India, and real-time data. It lies in women.
Ironically, it’s going to take men to resolve the problem.
A key barrier to resolving gender imbalance in business lies with the men who think this is a women’s problem and women need to fix it. Guys, here we are, telling women what they need to do: “lean in,” grasp new opportunities, negotiate harder, and speak up when they have a good idea.” Have you noticed this approach is NOT working?
The reality is, we men need to help fix the gender imbalance problem. We have the power and we are the gatekeepers. We do most of the hiring and nearly all the promoting. We need to get out there and help lead this movement. It is not only the smart thing to do, it is the fair thing to do.
Here are seven ways you can do that.
- Understand the conclusive global data showing that gender-balanced teams perform better. The biggest study of the impact on financial performance of adding women to the executive team was done by Credit Suisse in 2014 (Gender 3000: Women in Senior Leadership). They found a correlation between companies with more female executives and higher returns on equity, higher valuations, better stock performance, and higher payouts of dividends. It’s clear from this and dozens of other studies that men and women working together make better business decisions than men alone. Share this information with other men at your company. And make it a measurable goal to have gender-balanced teams on all your projects.
- Talk to the women on your team. Ask them to tell it to you straight. Then support them in meetings and throughout each day. Notice when they make a good point and no one reacts until one of their male colleagues picks up the idea and runs with it. You don’t have to fight that woman’s battles, but it would help her a lot if you could say something like, “Yes, that’s a good restatement of what Kristin was saying earlier. Kristin, is there anything else you want to add?” Ensuring credit is given where credit is due will transform your team for the better. Trust is the core of better team performance. Build it.
- Really get how uncomfortable it can feel to a female colleague when she walks up to a group of guys talking golf (or whatever), and they all suddenly shut up. She feels like she’s invading your space when all she wants is to be one of the group. Trust that she can handle a little golf talk. (Or college football stats). Don’t walk on eggshells because a female colleague comes into the room. Your sudden silence speaks volumes; it tells her she’s an outsider.
- Encourage the women in your meetings to offer their ideas. We all know the guys will speak up or raise their hands immediately, but you are missing out on a lot of good ideas if you don’t urge the women to come forward with what they’re thinking. And when they are sharing those great perspectives, don’t interrupt them or talk over them. No one likes it when they feel dismissed.
- Don’t allow shaming and blaming. Women have plenty of reasons to be pissed off, but blaming you for everything that men have done to women throughout history isn’t something you have to take. Don’t accept that type of blame. Explain to women that generalizations don’t help you to work this out, and – without shaming – make a request that they ask you questions that come from genuine curiosity. Women are experiencing death by a thousand paper cuts from the unconscious behaviors of men – start a conversation about that. Understand that their frustration is real, and they are suffering.
- Remember that privilege is invisible to those who have it. Most guys don’t realize how comparatively easy things are for them. By the same token, most white women don’t realize how easy they have it compared to their multicultural sisters: Their privilege is invisible to them, too. Just know that as white men, we have the most privilege and are therefore almost always the most blind to its impact – whether that impact is intended or not. Start to notice all the ways in which you dwell in privilege and discuss that with other men.
- Wake up the senior men of your company to the huge business opportunity of gender partnership, which goes far beyond HR implications. Encourage your leadership to embrace it as a strategic business imperative and take action to get behind it. Identify the execs with daughters who have an even bigger stake in achieving gender equality. Discuss ways to engage all men in forging a culture of Gender Partnership.
We all need to learn how to look out for and speak up for those who don’t get seen or heard. Only by enabling every contributor to have a voice will our companies thrive and our workplaces be productive, innovative, and exciting places to work for women and men alike.
More soon on how Gender Partnership dramatically and positively impacts our personal and family lives and society in general.
Ben Schick is a Senior Consultant with the Institute for Gender Partnership, founded by inclusion expert Rayona Sharpnack, who has been teaching Fortune 500, government, and nonprofit managers for 25 years the secret to achieving breakthrough results and achieving full Gender Partnership. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.