Allies for Gender Equity
Cartoon depicting the performance v. potential dynamic

Want to Support Gender Equity in the Workplace? Start Here.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and the 2023 theme is “Embrace Equity.”  This year, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re also celebrating Forté’s 20th anniversary. As you might imagine, as CEO of Forté, gender equity is a cause close to my heart. Our efforts to advance women in the workplace have made an impact — but there’s still a long way to go. 

From gender stereotypes to pay inequity, women in business face challenges at every level of their careers. In 2018, McKinsey identified the “broken rung,” in which men receive that first promotion to a managerial role at a higher rate than women. This results in fewer women at each subsequent career stage.

The comic above is funny because it’s true. Women have to prove they can succeed in a position before they’re promoted to it while men are often promoted based on their perceived potential. A 2021 study of nearly 30,000 employee assessment and performance records revealed how this dynamic plays out – although performance ratings were higher for women than men, their leadership potential was rated lower. As a result, there was a significant gender gap in promotions.

McKinsey’s 2022 report noted that women in leadership roles are opting to leave because “they want to work for a company that is more committed to employee well-being and DEI.” Even though women leaders are doing more to support employee well-being and foster inclusion, these efforts typically go unrewarded. This workplace culture has companies at risk of losing more of their current women leaders as well as the next generation.

The first step to overcoming inequities like these is bringing them to people’s attention. In honor of International Women’s Day, explore how you can support your women colleagues and take ongoing action toward a more equitable workplace.

3 Things Leaders Can Do to Support Gender Equity

  1. Pay attention to the language you use in performance reviews and feedback. Unconscious biases and gender stereotypes influence the review process. A study of hundreds of performance reviews found dramatic differences in the reviews given to women and men. Women are also less likely to receive actionable feedback, so be sure to provide specific examples of what the women on your team can do to improve.
  2. Hold inclusive meetings. Take steps to make your meetings more equitable and effective, such as sending materials in advance, communicating expectations around participation, and considering how power dynamics could affect engagement. 
  3. Be mindful of how you give out stretch assignments. Hold yourself accountable for dividing up important projects in an equitable way, because this type of assignment is often closely tied to career advancement.

3 Things Anyone Can Do to Support Gender Equity 

  1. Make sure women’s voices are heard. During meetings, if a woman is talked over or interrupted, direct attention back to her and ask her to finish her thought.
  2. Advocate for women. Even if you’re not in a position to mentor or sponsor a colleague yet, you can encourage the women in your life to express themselves, pursue leadership roles, and negotiate for what they want.
  3. Look for ways to be an ally. Ask the women you work with about their experiences, and ask how you can support them.

Want to do more to support gender equity in your workplace? Register for Inclusive Leadership: Allies for Gender Equity, a five-part program designed to give business leaders and working professionals the knowledge and tools to take effective action on gender equity. Consider giving a gift to support organizations dedicated to achieving equity. Your generosity helps provide more practical tools for women seeking leadership success.

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