Someone asked me the other day why I am making such a big deal about men who have helped women get ahead in business.
“Because they deserve it!” I replied. In fact, I am not only making a big deal, I am putting my money where my mouth is and holding a gala luncheon today to recognize, celebrate, and share best practices from 20 C-level “Guys Who Get It.”
Since the 1980’s ushered in more awareness of the hurdles and hazards women face in the business world, this issue has gotten lots of attention. The result is that there are more women being admitted into opening-level jobs, supervisory jobs and middle-management. Fifty percent of the managers in the U.S. are women. Beyond that, not so much is happening. The percentage dwindles with every step up the ladder, bottoming out at 4.4% (CEOs of S&P 500 companies).
This reluctance to promote women to top management is happening despite the repeated studies (McKinsey, Catalyst, Credit Suisse) showing that gender balance in top leadership teams pays off in increased profit, innovation, employee retention and decision-making. And it’s happening despite diversity training, consciousness raising about implicit bias, and programs to provide mentors to help women scale the ladder.
Women still aren’t getting the higher-level jobs in any sort of equitable numbers. Most men and a lot of women still believe (consciously or not), “Think manager, think male.”It’s hard to turn a company culture around; you have to keep at it over the years. It takes a consistent effort over time, and not everyone will support you.
Women need male champions to get the opportunities in upper-level management that they are so qualified for. I discovered this over 20 years ago, while teaching women managers how to lead transformational change in their workplaces. The women would go back to their workplaces with their new mindsets, vision, confidence and skills, and while some were hugely successful, others hit (predictable) male roadblocks.
That’s when I started offering a co-ed version of my widely popular “Leading Change” program. For these male-female teams of graduates, who returned to their jobs with the same set of skills for implementing breakthrough change, the sky was the limit.
But aren’t things different now? you ask. Why can’t we women accomplish our goals for ourselves?
Because, like it or not, we simply haven’t got the status or the power. That mostly still resides with men. We need top-level “guys who get it” to speak up for us, hold the men they manage accountable for improving the numbers and positions of women on their teams, and ensure that women get the same pay and the same challenging opportunities that their male peers are getting.“Expecting biases and policies to change based on occasional training and motivational speeches is simply ridiculous. So is making women the sole torchbearers for changing the culture.”
— Peggy Klaus, The New York Times
But isn’t that just the right thing to do? Why do they get AWARDS for it??
Because it’s hard to turn a company culture around; you have to keep at it over the years. Because it can be unpopular, and naysayers are rarely silent. (Especially on social media.) Because it takes a consistent effort over time, and not every woman who gets a chance at a higher position will be a dazzling success.
As author and coach Peggy Klaus wrote in The New York Times last August, “Expecting biases and policies to change based on occasional training and motivational speeches is simply ridiculous. So is making women the sole torchbearers for changing the culture.”
For my award-winning “Guys Who Get It,” taking the lead on the issue of gender equality has meant taking the risks of all early adopters (failure and ridicule), trusting that the statistics of financial and functional success will prove true for their own companies, and committing to the proposition that developing and welcoming women to fully participate (and, yes, sometimes compete) with their male colleagues will make their businesses – and the world – a better place. It takes courage to act on your beliefs when others are just paying lip service to them.
THAT’S why these guys are getting awards.
If you want to learn some of the steps they took to make gender equality a cultural norm at their organizations, download our list of Best Practices in Gender Partnership.