It seems every major company around the globe– and many not so major companies– are taking notice of the inequities of their female employee rosters at all levels. All this talk of diversity and fairness, plus counting and publishing the percentages has not budged the numbers much for women in leadership. Women still fall far short in reaching the equity goal in most every arena from Hollywood production to tenure positions in academia.
Gender diversity in the workplace and leadership has been in discussion for decades with some progress, but we have not reached parity yet. Maybe we have been going about it the wrong way, some suggest.
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, of 20-first, a global gender consulting firm, tells The Independent in the UK, “The issue isn’t recruitment – it’s retention and promotion. Getting women into leadership remains the biggest challenge.” To solve that problem, she suggests eliminating the old boys clubs completely and concentrating on building leadership skills for women now in the career pipeline.
It seems her observations havesignificant statistical evidence to back her up.
A new report just released from Spencer Stuart, Women Corporate Directors Foundation and other partners called 2016 Global Board Survey, found a fair future may not be imminent. The survey of 4,000 corporate board directors found the economic outlook not so rosy. And that shining a light on the problem of gender disparities at the top is not making changes happen quickly.
To that point, Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School comments, “Although we are hearing more talk about the importance of diversity from boards, it’s not necessarily translating into numbers. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen as much progress as we were hoping for compared to our past survey on the diversity of boards.”
That could simply be a result of a generational and gender divide favoring older white men in charge, while ignoring the pipeline of women poised for leadership roles. According to the report, “Male directors, especially older respondents, report the ‘lack of qualified female candidates,’ while women directors cite most often the fact that diversity is not a priority in board recruiting and that traditional networks tend to be male-dominated.”
Susan Stautberg, Chairman and CEO of WCDF, says she believes that women directors may be educating themselves more about the potential risks: “We believe that women in particular bring a real thirst for knowledge and curiosity to their board service, and this includes getting up-to-speed on what the real risks are to an organization. All good directors do this, but we think being relatively new to the boardroom can create a greater sense of urgency to learn.”
The stagnation of the status quo may simply be due to the plug in the pipeline at the top. How can we have more women leadership? Those at the top unwilling to take real action to invite women into active leadership roles, may need to let go of the barriers and open the doors.
Policy expert Mara Bolis writing for Oxfam America says solutions to economic gender inequality are simpler than we think. Bolis writes about the global problem of female poverty: “Many solutions have been offered to tackle inequality including ending corporate tax havens, investing in public services and promoting decent jobs with fair pay. But how’s this for a radical thought : applying a gender lens to these policies helps you go farther faster.”