Gender equality remains elusive for women workers, especially those of color
- A new McKinsey and LeanIn.org report on the state of women in the workplace found that although gender equality is a bigger priority for employers now than perhaps ever before, women lag behind men in hiring and advancement. The study results rule out women dropping out of the workplace to start families as a major cause of the disparity.
- In fact, women’s progress might have stalled, according to the 2017 Women in the Workplace report. The research results show that fewer women are hired for entry-level positions than men, despite the fact that most college graduates are women, and that women are under-represented in senior management and the C-suite. Women of color, especially black women, face even more disparity in hiring and promotions. Black women have looked to entrepreneurship to escape race and sex discrimination.
- The report also found that although women recognize gender disparities, men don’t, and that some men think that parity between the genders works against them. The report concluded that women work in a system that’s skewed in favor of men.
Much of the disparities between female and male employees borders on discrimination; the real problem is that many companies have a problem seeing the issue at all. Refusing to hire someone isn’t illegal, unless candidates are being rejected solely on the basis of race or gender. But refusing to promote someone fails the same test when women are systematically ruled out for advancement.
While the problem occurs across a variety of industries, problems within the tech industry have served as a distillation of the issue at large. Google has been under fire for allegedly paying men more than women performing the same or similar jobs. Three women, all ex-employees at Oracle, are suing the company on the same grounds. The high number of sex discrimination and sexual harassment allegations lodged against several tech firms points to a deep cultural problem within the industry.
Unless employers across industries are willing to make stark cultural changes, gender and race disparities will persist. The key lies in taking the time to listen to the people within your organization and, in some cases, using data to discern possible problematic patterns so HR can step in to fix them. Listening — and then actually using the suggestions — to employee resource groups and other vocal parts of an organization can also bring calls for change to leadership's attention.