This week has been full of deep, philosophical discussions about the gap in women’s leadership across a variety of industries, but mostly tech. In the conversations I’ve had this week, all the participants have been passionate and knowledgeable on the topic. There is no need to review the data and show the lack of significant change with regard to the number of women and other minorities holding leadership positions across a variety of verticals. Everyone at these tables gets it.
The conversations have been focused on how to really change things. At the end of the day, data points and discussions don’t get things done.
How do you get someone to help work on a problem that they don’t see, or don’t think they have a role to play in solving it?
One particularly interesting discussion focused on the difference between women feeling empowered and actually having power. The Diversity Inclusion professional I was speaking with was pointing out how it’s great that the stories, support, bonding and memes passed around may help women feel that they’re not alone and help them feel more empowered. Yet, until we figure out how to get more women actually to HAVE power, in terms of owning P&Ls and having decision-making authority, and not just running cost centers and such, it will be tough to notice a difference.
We see that there are some new approaches being tried, like the laws in California stating that companies can no longer have all-male Boards of Directors. When that passed, it fueled a long, thoughtful discussion at my dinner table with my husband and 14-year-old son. My husband didn’t like the law primarily because he felt that the women who would be the “onlys” and the “firsts” would find it very challenging. I argued that the women who accept those positions as the first females would be very aware of the situation they were walking into, and despite the difficulty, they would do it for the sake of those women coming up behind them. How do we foster desire in women to be those first Board members? To want and work for those positions that own budgets and have real power within their organization?
It’s great that the dialogue has gotten clearer and louder, but how are we really going to move the needle? Many reports, like the McKinsey “Women in the Workplace” report, show that little progress has been made in recent years in terms of women claiming more senior roles, despite the louder conversations that are happening. My biggest concern is that many of the people who truly do need to help drive the difference don’t see the problem, don’t realize the role they need to play to make change, or think they are already “woke” and that things are improving and that the rhetoric is being blown out of proportion. While that includes a lot of men, there are plenty of women who don’t really see this as a huge issue or who think of it as “not my problem”. How do you get someone to help work on a problem that they don’t see, or don’t think they have a role to play in solving it?
I don’t have the answers, obviously. I love that the Ceresa program is working with individual women to help them be better equipped to navigate challenges and climb forward in their careers. That piece is important so that in a few years, those women will have the skills and ability to navigate to and succeed in those roles. I also look forward to finding other ways to complement programs focused on individuals in order to create enduring change at a foundational level.
How do you think we can best pull the right people in to play an active role in the solution? Do you sense there are better ways we can move the needle?