Category Archives: Women in the Workplace

Women, Inclusion, Lean In, Systemic Barriers, Inclusiveness Initiative

Engaging White Male Allies & Champions – Part 2

Watching light bulbs go off for white men at my training sessions when they fully understand they have blind-spots in the workplace because gender isn’t a salient identity or because they unknowingly favor others who are like themselves due to affinity bias is so gratifying.

Once these realizations sink in, it is easier to understand how women’s career paths and organizational success are undermined.  After all, it is hard to work on a problem if you don’t believe it exists.

Warren Buffett, a great white male champion, is using his position of power and influence by calling on men to invest in women in the workplace at the same level they are investing in their “mini-me’s” (other men for whom they have affinity bias because it is easier and more comfortable to develop deeper relationships with people who are like you).  Buffet advocates for greater focus on gender equality, insisting in an essay last week that America’s future is bright but only if we work to dismantle gender inequities in the workplace and support women in “leaning in.”  Buffet talks in terms of under-performance (see my first blog on this):

“So, my fellow males, what’s in this for us? Why should we care whether the remaining barriers facing women are dismantled and the fun-house mirrors junked? Never mind that I believe the ethical case in itself is compelling. Let’s look instead to your self-interest.
No manager operates his or her plants at 80% efficiency when steps could be taken that would increase output. And no CEO wants male employees to be underutilized when improved training or working conditions would boost productivity. So take it one step further: If obvious benefits flow from helping the male component of the workforce achieve its potential, why in the world wouldn’t you want to include its counterpart?
Fellow males, get onboard. The closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be. We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualize what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist about America’s future.” (May 20, 2013 issue of Fortune, published online on May 2, 2013)

It is time to eradicate hidden structural barriers as well as lack of awareness and resulting mind-sets.  Calling all white male champions and allies………………….



New Research Study Shows 2/3 of Men Agree Women Paid Less

According to a new study reported in the Wall Street Journal, 2/3 of men agree women are paid less for the same work.  If that’s so, why do we still have large gender pay gaps? Structural impediments and lack of sponsors for women still play a large role.  Inclusiveness initiatives, which make hidden barriers underlying gender pay gaps visible, are absolutely critical to eliminating inequity.

Organizations Have to Change as Women “Lean In”

What has been lost in the intense dialogue about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book is that “leaning in” is only one aspect of the change needed to fully include and advance women in the workplace.  According to research by McKinsey & Company, there are four major barriers to women’s advancement:

  • Structural obstacles
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Institutional mind-sets (bias, stereotypes, and ingrained notions of what types of behaviors leaders exhibit)
  • Individual mind-sets (women holding themselves back)

Once again, the debate will center on what’s wrong with women and how they have to change to advance, not on what needs to change within organizations – structural obstacles and institutional mind-sets.  The McKinsey research suggests that the latter are the most important but difficult to overcome:  “Of all the forces that hold women back, however, none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs.”  The top structural barriers for women include their lack of:

  • role models
  • access to informal networks, and
  • sponsors in upper management who create opportunities for them.

Organizations can and should focus considerable resources on eliminating these systemic roadblocks by instituting an inclusiveness initiative.

Resist the temptation to blame women for not “leaning in” and get busy creating systemic change to support their advancement.