Recruiting Men to Help Promote Gender Equality in the C-Suite

There’s great debate in the worlds of social justice and progress about finding the line between “safe spaces” and “buy in.” For women in the workplace, especially those in corporate America, C-suites, and board rooms, women want the same importance and respect have, but the question remains: Do we fight against men for it, or recruit them to help us diversify our leadership?

For many, the argument is to recruit men to join the effort to bring diversity and gender equality to the realm of upper management. From a sheer numbers perspective, a movement to include more women in the upper ranks of a company is an all-hands-on-deck effort. Most men will probably agree that running an inclusive business means ensuring an inclusive team is in charge of the company, and few if any will admit to harboring some deep aversion to having women in leadership. What these men may not know, though is how to go about improving the number of women present at the table.

If the men of your company aren’t actively helping promote gender equality, then they’re hurting the effort by enforcing the status quo. To grow the number of women who make it to the C-suite, men have to take up an active role in forwarding the agenda of gender inclusivity and equality.

A common refrain among those who claim they want gender equality is that they don’t know where to start or what to do. Where does one go to find qualified, experienced women in the field? Coco Brown, the founder of a women’s empowerment networking group called The Athena Alliance, recommends for men to start with someone the trust and to network out from there. She writes, “If a CEO knows one amazing executive woman, he has access to at least six others. We all run in like peer groups.”

Additionally, as simple as it may sound, men can practice not talking when a woman is talking. Psychological implications of socialization and imposter syndromes aside, men often physically have louder and deeper voices than women do, meaning that, as they wish, they can drown out a woman’s input with ease. For many women who are trying to contribute to their place of work, literally having their voices heard is an important step.

Tips for Female Executives

When it comes to high-level executive positions, the number of women is severely lacking. Females account for just over half of the population in the United States, but comprise only 14.6% of executives, 8.1% of the county’s top earners, and 4.6% of the CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. You might be thinking, “maybe not that many women go into business, so the numbers could be proportional. However, women hold 60% of all master’s degrees ( 44% of all master’s in business/management, and 37% of all MBAs), comprise nearly half (47%) of the labor force, and make up 59% of entry-level workers who hold degrees. So why is there such a disconnect?

Women face a lot of pressure and obstacles in the rise to becoming an executive. Although it can be difficult to be a woman in charge, here are a few tips to help you succeed.

  • Push yourself outside of your comfort level.
    • Don’t ever let anyone say that the reason you didn’t succeed is that you didn’t try hard enough. Sure, it’s nerve-wracking to ask for a raise or to inquire about a promotion, but if you don’t push yourself to become more, you’ll end up stuck where you are. The same goes for business dealings. There will be risks that come along, and if you don’t jump at the chance to better your business, you can end up falling behind. Keep challenging yourself to see how much you can truly succeed
  • Don’t let your personal life dictate your professional life (and vice versa).
    • Your position as an executive and your status as a woman, wife, or mother are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to stick to just one, and you don’t have to be defined in either capacity by your position in the other. Women may socially be expected to stay at home to raise and take care of the children, but this is 2017. If you’re a mother, you can be a breadwinner coparenting with a stay-at-home dad and you can use child care services. If you want to put your career first and don’t want to have a family, that’s perfectly fine as well. Live your life and pursue your dreams the way you want to.
  • Get comfortable with being the only woman in the room.
    • Female executives can often find themselves the only woman in a room full of men. It can be easy to let yourself become overshadowed and talked over, but you can’t let yourself get boxed out. It may take time to “prove yourself,” but the only person who can handle how you behave in the face of adversity is you. Believe in yourself, your knowledge, and your ability and unapologetically own the position that you’ve earned.

Powerful Female Executives

Rising to the top is never an easy feat, especially for women in large corporations. This can be exemplified by the fact that there are only 21 female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list. In spite of their small numbers, these women are forces to be reckoned with. Take the opportunity to get to know four of the most powerful female executives:

1. Mary Barra

In 1980, Mary Barra joined the General Motors team as a co-op student. Over the past 37 years, Barra rose through the ranks of the company, becoming the VP of Global Manufacturing Engineering, VP of Global Human Resources, Executive VP of Global Product Development, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, and finally CEO in 2014. In addition, she was named the chairperson of GM in January 2016. Barra is also known for being a major investor in the ride-sharing company Lyft.

2. Indra K. Nooyi

With an extensive background in consulting and executive experience, Indra K. Nooyi began her career with Pepsi Co. in 1994 as their Senior VP of Strategic Planning. Nooyi quickly rose through the ranks, accepting the position of President and CFO in 2001. In October 2006, Nooyi was named the President and CEO of Pepsi Co., and the chairperson of the board just seven months later. Under her leadership, Pepsi Co. began the Performance with Purpose initiative, a promise to do what is right for the business by doing what is right for the people and the planet. Additionally, Pepsi Co. has gone on to acquire several healthier brands, including Quaker Oats and Gatorade.

3. Irene Rosenfeld

Upon completing her education at Cornell University, Irene Rosenfeld began her career in advertising, eventually moving into a consumer research role with General Foods. Soon after, she found herself advancing to leadership roles within the company. From 1981 to 2003, Rosenfeld served as President of North American Businesses at Kraft Foods North America. Rosenfeld then served as Chairperson and CEO of Frito-Lay and CEO of Kraft Foods. When Kraft split from its principal company, Mondelez International, in 2011, Rosenfeld remained with Mondelez and was named CEO.

4. Sheryl Sandberg

After receiving her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, Sheryl Sandberg began her career as the Chief of Staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, a position in which she served from 1995 to 2001. Leaving her government job behind, Sandberg set her sights on the Silicon Valley and becoming a part of the tech boom that was occurring at that time. Sandberg then served as VP of Global Online Sales & Operations at Google Inc., from 2001 to 2008. Upon leaving Google, Sandberg joined the Facebook team as their Chief Operating Officer and has remained in that role ever since.

Little-Known Facts About Women in the Workplace

Lori Cornmesser
Women in the Workforce

Holding 47% of jobs in America, women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the working world.  Recently, an article published by the Pew Research Center has analyzed the Census data and come to some interesting conclusions on the values of having women in the workplace and what the realities are for men and women alike in today’s job force.

1. Compilation of data has shown that women are entering the working world better educated than males entering the workforce.  Thirty-eight percent of women ages 25-32 had at least a four year degree when beginning their careers, while only 31% of men in that same age range had at least a four year degree.

2. Looking back across the last 30 years, each new group of young women beginning their careers have began their jobs with wages higher than the previous year, as compared to male wages.  In other words, the gap is closing between the differences in hourly wages between men and women.  In 2012, women ages 25-34 were making 93% of what their male counterparts were making, while in 1980 women in this same age category were making only 67% of what men in this age range were making.

3. Women have become the innovators in the workplace.  Seventy-five percent of women ages 18-32, of the millennial generation, say that America needs to continue to make changes in order to achieve a more gender-equal standard for the workplace.

Lori Cornmesser Ruiz
Women juggling careers and parenting.

4. While women do want to ensure that they have job security, women from ages 18-67 were overall less-likely than males to ask for a raise or to pursue higher-up positions within their company.  This becomes even more apparent as the age groups are broken down into generation categories.  The baby-boomer generation women are the least likely to ask for raises while Millennial women were the most likely.

5. In terms of men and women who are parents and also have full-time jobs, the number of women who noted that their position as a parent has become a hurdle in advancing their careers is far higher than the number of men who say the same.  Fifty-one percent of women said it made the advancement of their career more difficult compared to only 16% of men who attest the same.

These were just some of the interesting findings that indicate the climate of women’s place in the working world today. To see more of these facts, check out the article listed above.

The Gender Equality Battle: Any Closer to Closing the Gap?

Lori CornmesserGender equality in the workplace has been a topic of discussion for some time now, and we have seen many more individuals working hard to bridge that gap.  A recent article seems to think the closing of that gender gap is closer than we may have anticipated.  In the past year, statistics have shown that women in the 25-34 age range were making 93% of what their male counterparts of the same age range were earning.

In this same study, 15% of women said they had faced gender discrimination in their workplace- a number that, we hope will one day be 0%, but is lower than it has been in the past.  There was also the finding that men and women were just as likely to ask their bosses for a promotion or raise.

While these steps forward in creating gender-equal workplaces are great to see, there still remains a lot that needs to be worked on in order to see this goal solidified.  Seventy-five percent of young women agree with this notion that more change is necessary to achieve equality.  The article notes that roughly 3 in 5 women have expressed the ease at which men achieve top jobs in government and business areas business as opposed to females.  Similarly, almost two-thirds of this group worry about having children in the future, in that it may hinder their progress within their work environment.

The future seems bright for these Millennials- but will it remain that way?  Past studies have shown that younger women, (20-30 range), made 85% as much as males in that age range, while these same group of women in the study made 76% as much as their male counterparts when they reached ages 40-50.  We can only hope that these Millennials will not start to slow down in their bridging of the gender gap.  With all the progress that has been made over the years, it seems to be indicative of only more forward motion for this cause.