A conversation with a female friend at a male-dominated and highly competitive company in a very competitive industry went down like this.:
Friend: Grobby, you would be proud of me. I had two days of meetings this week for managers in my dept. it was 16 men and me. When I saw the invite I was kind of startled at the lopsidedness. I know it’s a male-dominated industry but 16 to 1?! Come on!
And I was mad but didn’t plan to say anything. But I ended up changing my mind and prepared a little something to say, and I challenged everyone in the room to take a look around – 16 to 1 — and we can do better than that. Be aware. We’re obviously missing out on talented people and to have only one female who is in any kind of mgmt role just doesn’t look good and isn’t good for our company or our work
Grobby: “Woooooww!!! I AM super proud of you!! And what was their reaction?”
Friend: It was mostly positive. There were a couple people that said there aren’t as many female applicants or they try or something (being defensive) but overall people agreed
Friend: And the HR representative who was presenting to us (and a woman) said she really appreciated my making the important point, and that she had actually been a little taken aback at the #s. And that this has been a conversation topic recently for her with senior manager of how to get more gender diversity.
Also that she just had an exit interview with a woman who left and said a big reason was she didn’t see advancement opportunities for women as there are VERY few women in top positions at the company
Grobby: Tell her first to stop calling us diversity. Women are not diversity. They represent MORE than 50% of university graduates. They are not some underprivileged sector of the population. For your company they are a huge talent pool which it is not taking advantage of
Question no. 2: I would ask her is – what are the characteristics that get people promoted in the organization
Friend: And there are a decent – not great, but so-so — number of women at the company. But not in leadership roles
Friend: I also presented this challenge. Google did a study of its workforce (following complaints and anecdotes) and found that women in the same position were paid less and women with same experience and education were in lower level positions than their male counterparts (on average). I think my company should do the same thing. I’m willing to bet that women in same role – on average – are paid less
Grobby: You totally should. This is almost industry standard by now to do these kinds of studies. Pressure your HR.
Friend: Anyway we’ll see if my comments have any effect. I think the message really needs to be drilled to senior management
Would you, the reader, have the guts to bring this important topic to discussion with your superiors? You SHOULD because they could be surprisingly supportive. And if they aren’t, perhaps it’s time to look for another employer.