How To Prepare for Pushback on Path To Gender Parity

An all-female team of sports commentators on ESPN sparked pushback from social media. We’d like to think that everyone is on board for gender parity in the workplace and across all industries, sectors and cultures. We assume the holdouts and stalls are because some administrators and leaders may not have known just how to solve the gender gap.That assumption is because there is so much buy-in on so many levels to encourage women leaders to move ahead in their careers— even from the very top in this country.President Barack Obama last week reaffirmed, “I am for equal pay for equal work,” at the White House reception for the 2015 WNBA national basketball champions, the Minnesota Lynx.But the holdouts for gender parity and the pushback to women in leadership are real and this may take some strategic moves to make culture transitions go smoothly.Achieving gender parity means altering long established traditions and institutions.When the U.S. Marine Corps. renamed 19 positions recently to take “man” out of the job descriptions and to shift titles from basic infantryman to basic infantry marine, there was loud dissent. The change was to reflect the presence of women in those jobs.“The rage — mostly confined to tweets, Facebook links and comments’ sections — centered on the idea that the Marine Corps was being gutted by political correctness. While many of the remarks cannot be quoted in full here because of expletives, the Facebook page of the Marine Corps’ unofficial scribe — Terminal Lance — is, at the time of writing, a flurry of discussion on the topic,” wrote Thomas Gibbons-Neff in the Washington Post.And many ESPN viewers recently got super upset when the screen was filled with women commentators.“’First Take’ viewers got a break from human megaphone Stephen A. Smith on Wednesday when a group of women, including respected reporters Kate Fagan, Sarah Spain and Jane McManus, took the reins of the ESPN show,” writes Marissa Payne in the Washington Post. By most accounts, they did a great job mulling over the day’s top sports stories, but not everyone was pleased. And by ‘everyone,’ a group of silly men who still apparently believe women have no place in sports.”Also on TV, but in late night comedy, is Samantha Bee with her “Full Frontal” breakthrough show that stands up against a roster of male comedians on all the other networks.Alex Morris writes in Rolling Stone, “Then she made the show that she herself would want to watch, one in which ‘women’s issues’ are taken off the sidelines, and boulders are rained down on racism and sexism and any person, institution or -ism that needs a good whopping. Bee shrugs. ‘I don’t know how we would do it any other way.’“Yes, there was Joan Rivers and also Chelsea Handler in late night before Bee, but Bee embraces the pushback, even featuring skits about a hotline for trolls.Even outside institutions, the idea of gender parity can receive pushback.So if you are not in the military, sports or television, how do you effectively navigate workplace environments and industry cultures that may be resistant to a vision of parity?The 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career address the concepts of power for women in all sectors with programs developed by Gloria Feldt, Take The Lead co-founder and president. Take The Lead has a goal of gender parity in the workplace by 2025.At the first Women in Leadership conference at University of Massachusetts-Lowell, workshops and speakers also outlined strategies to move towards parity for women leaders and all women in the workplace.Katherine Webster writes, ”Deborah Chausse, executive director of House of Hope homeless shelter and transitional housing in Lowell, said women should assert themselves and refuse to be bullied. ‘Build a reputation and don’t deviate from it. Know where the line is that you’re not willing to cross and don’t cross it,’ she said.”Also at the conference was Lisa Brothers, co-founder and chief executive of Nitsch Engineering, at a panel on “Navigating the Gender-Segregated Workplace,” organized by the Center for Women and Work.“I’ve seen a lot of young women who don’t stretch and reach because they think they don’t know all of it. Young men know 50 percent and they think they’re good to go,” Brothers said. “Young women never ask for more (pay) than we give them and young men are always at the table.”How to respond when faced with a pushback to parity? Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and an affiliate of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, writes in The Atlantic that there are several reasons for the reactions and behaviors women demonstrate in workplaces where gender bias is expressed. Gender parity is reachable, but takes intention.[bctt tweet=“Gender parity is reachable, but takes intention.”]“For women with low levels of gender identification—who think their gender should be irrelevant at work and for whom connecting with other women is not important—being on the receiving end of gender bias forces the realization that others see them first and foremost as women. And because of negative stereotypes about women, like that they are less competent than men, individual women can be concerned that their career path may be stunted if they are primarily seen as just a woman and therefore not a good fit for leadership.”But this kind of work culture can lead women leaders to help other women become leaders as well.“Women who have experienced gender discrimination but who more strongly identified with their gender don’t react to such bias by trying to distance themselves from other women. Instead, a study found that policewomen who highly identified as women responded to gender discrimination with an increased desire to create more opportunities for other women,” Cooper writes.There is good news. If you are in a work culture with pushback to parity, you can network and align with other women. This strategy can be successful in changing the culture.“There is plenty of evidence to show that women do indeed support one another. When women work with a higher percentage of women they experience lower levels of gender discrimination and harassment. When women have female supervisors, they report receiving more family and organizational support than when they have male supervisors. And a preponderance of studies show that when more women are in management positions, the gender pay gap is smaller.”As women across the globe grapple with issues of fairness in the workplace and move towards gender parity in leadership in all fields and sectors, there may be some players whose strategies seem out of touch.The Japan High Heel Association, for example, charges approximately $4,000 for six months of “walking etiquette” classes to teach women how to walk in high heels, claiming it makes them feel more confident.We would rather spend that money on shoes and practice walking in the kitchen.