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The Time for Impacting Change-Workplace Women

Oct 01, 2021

The Time for Impacting Change-Workplace Women

Michelle Leachman

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Equal Rights Amendment

 

2020 flipped the world upside down, into a vulnerable state with highly challenging circumstances and uncertainty. For years leading up to the year referenced as ‘hindsight,’ women (in particular) have been fighting for equal pay in gender gaps. Corporate America must make significant investments in the people by building a more flexible, empowering, and empathetic workplace. They must create a culture in which women have equal opportunities to succeed and maximize their potential. Women, especially women of color, remain drastically underrepresented in the workforce, specifically with regard to pay and leadership roles.

 

For every 100 men to be promoted to a manager, only 85 women were. This is according to a report conducted by LeanIn.org who have been producing studies on equality in the workplace for the past six years. Women remain significantly outnumbered in entry-level management positions at the beginning of 2020 and even less as we work towards 2022. Due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, as many as two million women have considered leaving the workforce due to inequality gaps and the need to oversee the home, now with children schooling from home and taking on far more childcare responsibilities.

 

Women who do hold higher-level managerial positions are held at a higher standard to perform than men, and face higher criticism. Women who do hold these higher-level leadership roles are often the only female in that role, often with a group of men. This fact causes more pressure on women in these roles to work more and produce better results to prove their competence.

 

Change will not happen without advocates for the change. Companies must work with women in the workplace to clearly hear their realistic needs. Women in upper-level leadership positions actively listen to the personal stories of their employees and take the time to mentor, more so than men in these roles do. Women do more to publicly acknowledge other women for their ideas and hard work, especially women of color. Women work together more cohesively to identify areas of change within the workplace, and they advocate for that change. It is evident that we as women must make our voices heard as the workplace needs to listen.

 

In 1923, a women suffragist Alice Paul PhD, advocated for the rights of women. She helped to secure the passage of the 19th amendment and authored the Equal Rights Amendment. She, along with several other women who were focused on raising their voices to speak to women’s equality, formed parades and led several protests. It wasn’t easy. Paul and other suffragists were criticized, mentally and physically attacked, and shamed for their movement and intentions, yet this did not stop them from achieving what they had sought out to do. Police arrested many of the women who picketed outside the White House. Paul was sentenced to seven months in jail, during this time she was threatened to be placed in an insane asylum due to a hunger strike. Her time in jail attracted public attention and the attention of President Wilson, who finally agreed to the 19th Amendment. Had it not been for the strength in numbers and endless efforts of Paul and fellow women, the constitutional protection from discrimination and the right to vote may never have been implemented.

 

Take the study by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Strength in Numbers; A field experiment in Gender, Influence and Group Dynamics. The aim of this study was to assess whether the gender composition of an individual’s work team affects women’s ability to influence group deliberation and decision-making. Using a variety of data and analysis they found that lone women are significantly less likely to have any influence in a team and not likely to be chosen as a spokesperson, when in a group with men. This study found that token women’s competence was not rewarded and would receive far less credit than that compared to men. This leads to outcomes such as gender disparities in leadership because women correctly presume they will have less support from their team when men are in the majority. Countries have executed various laws to force various percentages of women to hold a role in the workplace. Norway requires government-regulated industries to hire at least 40% of women. California, for example, requires all publicly held corporations to have at least one female on the Board of Directors. The purpose is to bring women’s voices and expertise to the table. Yet, reports show that a single woman (token woman) in a male-dominated environment will not be heard, so what do we do? How can we break down the barriers so that a woman’s voice can be equally heard with their contributions and expertise?

 

There is a lot of work ahead. Corporations must demand more. More seats for women to make a difference and have influence. It is our responsibility as women to take charge and fight for those opportunities and to break out of the barriers of intimidation. The research shows that women’s voices are systematically undervalued and their experiences are often not well-explained by existing narratives. It leaves ‘us’ at a loss of how to convey what is happening. Women face both testimonial and hermeneutical injustice. With this evidence, we must keep at it. We must continue to speak up for our seats at the board, our opportunities when earning a promotion, and demanding more. Trust your sense of a situation and act on it.

 

Speak clearly and with real intentions. Champion other women’s success in and outside of the workforce. Recognize when there is a need for change and stand up in your beliefs and opinions. Be open to the outcome and hold your personal and professional values true. Together we as women can and will continue to make the impacting change that is necessary now more than ever in this vulnerable world. Together as a team, we can advocate for other women, especially women of color who are more affected to ensure they are supported by fellow managers and coworkers.

 

Corporate America must address the distinct experiences of women who face obstacles in sexism and in gender inequality gaps. They must recognize that women of color experience that, in addition to racism and violence, which affects not only the workplace but the home. Companies who practice ‘fair and equal roles’ must effectively turn their commitment into action, rather than just stating it. They must create a culture in which women have equal opportunities to succeed and maximize their potential. We as women must challenge the response to create an impact if companies fail to meet our realistic standards. If we continue to make our voices be heard, champion other women, support the growth mindset, and continually work to uphold our values, change will be the outcome. There isn't any other option for companies anymore.

 

Michelle Leachman is open for writing and speaking opportunities and endorsed by WIFA.  You can connect with Michelle here.