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Gender imbalances in the workplace and solving the dilemma

Without having to impose gender quotas on Americans the way several European countries have, there are some simple ways that businesses nationwide can help to bridge the gender inequality gap.

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Gender imbalances persist today

In many European countries, gender quotas on corporate boards have been in place for several years, first in Norway, then Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands The European Union Commissioner is pushing for quotas in companies as well, stating1 that companies have done little to remedy the disparity between male and female leadership. The quotas could be implemented in coming years if the gender imbalances persist.

Quotas are a contentious issue in Europe, but an even more hot button topic in America. The problem internationally with how the gender imbalance is being portrayed is that when companies report this data, they do not cite stats for the entire company, rather, it is female leadership and management that is reported, and those numbers are admittedly improving in the U.S.

But not so fast – the numbers being reported as women in leadership roles is not necessarily C-level executives, and more often than not, it is low level management being portrayed as female leaders, so just promote a few gals into lower management and your company has solved the gender gap crisis, right?

Not only is reporting flawed and skewing how the dilemma is being portrayed, a new Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report2, there is a dramatic preference for promoting men over women. Here is how the gender balance breaks down by each level, according to the WSJ:

  • Graduate entry level – 53 percent female, 47 percent male
  • Director level – 35 percent female, 65 percent male
  • Senior level – 24 percent female, 76 percent male
  • C-suite – 19 percent female, 81 percent male

Gender imbalances, what is the cure?

A recent report3 unveils that Millennial businesswomen do not ask for raises or promotions as often as their male counterparts, which is fascinating, as the generation grew up under the mantra that we are all equal, no matter our gender, race, or religion. Other generations that were not raised under this banner are also likely to be comprised of women that do not insist on promotions or raises.

For years, I have personally written on the topic of gender equality and have taken the unpopular stance that there is no such thing as a glass ceiling, and that women must not fear being considered a bitch at work if that is what it takes to succeed, and must never see themselves as inferior, particularly when their experience and education level is on par with or better than their male counterparts.

The idea that women are not as assumptive about raises or promotions is a clear indicator that the glass ceiling is somewhat self-imposed, but there are things our nation can do to make progress with gender equality at work without having to follow Europe down the path of gender quotas.

First, reporting must be accurate. Saying a company has a 50/50 balance between men and women, yet there are no C-suite executives that are female, only 5 percent in the senior level, but a massive number in the director level, the reporting is nothing more than back-patting and a back door way to show gender equality.

Secondly, women must push harder and insist on promotions and raises, because their male counterparts are doing it assumptively. Take away the self-imposed glass ceiling and our gender gets one step closer to equality.

Third, new leaders, young leaders must evaluate their company culture. Is twisting numbers a reasonable way to solve a company’s gender inequality problem, or is really looking at the culture a more effective path toward long term change? That’s a rhetorical question.

Lastly, as we’ve written about several times, encouraging young women, mentoring young women, and providing tools for their entry into the workplace as more than a receptionist. STEM (science, tech, engineering, and math) careers are always short female talent, and the pool employers have to choose from is very small, so encouraging and empowering young girls to be interested in STEM careers is the best way to bridge the gender gap in the long run.

There are many excuses companies can make as to why the gap exists, and many excuses women can make for themselves as to why they are not in leadership roles, but with improved reporting, improved culture, and mentorship of young women, the next generation has a chance at making some real headway on the gender imbalance dilemma.

1 EU Commissioner to push for gender quotas
2 WSJ Report
3 Report on Millennial businesswomen

Business News

Removing remote work options creates a new caste system

(BUSINESS) Remote work has created a democratization of sorts in the workforce, and companies desperate to nix the options could take a hit.

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remote work

Many companies are mandating a return to the office after over a year of allowing employees to work remotely, and, according to a recent study, over half of workers surveyed say they won’t stand for it. As remote work becomes more normalized for all levels of employment, it is crucial that employers retain the option for employees to work in this capacity wherever possible – even if it means employing nontraditional methods.

Harvard Business Review references something called “the democratizing effect of remote work” – the great equalizing that took place during stay-at-home orders nationwide.

In short, this philosophy entails workers having their needs met while continuing to fulfill their contracts of employment. Theoretically, this is a win-win situation.

But employers have their own predilections toward in-house operations, with remote flexibility often being reserved for the highest-ranking officials while “lower” employees are expected to commute. It’s a business model with which we’re exceptionally familiar; why change?

The answer to that question may be employee-driven, as many employees cite a preference for hybrid or remote work environments post-pandemic. “Employees are leaving workplaces that don’t suit their needs anymore,” cites HBR.

Many of those needs are emotional, too. Non-white employees and female employees face a higher level of discrimination in the workplace than their white and/or male counterparts; Black employees, in particular, reported stressful work conditions, with HBR citing that only three percent of Black employees demonstrated an interest in returning to an in-office environment (as opposed to 21 percent of white employees).

Allowing stressed and oppressed employees to work from home can improve their mental health, stress levels, and even their “feelings of belonging at their organization” in the case of Black employees.

Outside of race and gender, the publication also stresses the negative effects that mandating a return after allowing for remote work will have: “Creating a new caste system where elites have anywhere jobs and non-elites are shackled to the office full time is a recipe for high attrition among employees who often have a lot of firm-specific knowledge that is valuable to their employers.”

The less-subtle breakdown is this: If companies that are capable of offering remote work want to retain employees, they need to offer some remote options.

We saw the effects of employees in frontline occupations refusing to show up to work because of poor wages and working conditions earlier this year. It isn’t outside of the realm of feasibility to expect the next major workforce shortage to impact corporations as well.

If the solution is as simple as letting employees work from home a few days per week or permanently (especially if their productivity doesn’t suffer), that’s a pretty small price to pay for continued prosperity.

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Business News

The case for nixing your company happy hour forever

(BUSINESS) Happy hour is designed to bond teams and offer a perk, but the design is outdated to benefit few workers – let’s just get rid of the practice.

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happy hour person drinking

The world of work has forever changed from the pandemic. Melinda Gates hopes that COVID-19 makes society get serious about gender equality. Some people are wondering how many people really want to return to the office at all. There are questions about providing customer service, not to reduce costs to the business, but because shoppers don’t want help in the store.

Let’s tackle another tradition in the office – the happy hour. Wondering if employees really want happy hours? Do they even help?

Why do we even have happy hour?

Happy hour is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century and the United States Navy. It was originally a weekly entertainment created to alleviate boredom on the U.S.S. Arkansas when sailors were at sea. The practice became popular in the Navy, but over time, the emphasis changed from entertainment to drinking. As drinking became less stigmatized after prohibition, employees began drinking at work and after work. Although happy hours declined in the 1970s and beyond, there was a resurgence in the 2000s.

Why do offices hold happy hour?

Hosting a happy hour is thought to help a team develop positive relationships and encourage employee engagement and productivity. Drink o’clock can be a time of celebration to help employees feel good about the work they’re doing.

Employees can interact with each other outside of the stress of work. It sounds pretty innocent, just getting together at the end of the workday at a local pub or bar, but it comes with a lot of issues.

Is it time to nix the work happy hour?

Happy hour can come with a lot of pressure for employees. Some people believe they have to attend in order to keep moving up in the job, because skipping out can be seen as not being a team player, and many who don’t show up to the “optional” happy hours are also the ones who didn’t get to schmooze with the bosses and thereby are not the ones who get promotions.

This disproportionately hurts women, who typically still have the majority of caregiving tasks in the family and can’t stay out drinking on weeknights.

Transportation issues or flexible schedules don’t lend themselves well to the traditional happy hour after work. And don’t forget the drinking atmosphere doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are many religious, cultural, and personal reasons for people to avoid alcohol, bars, and happy hour functions.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of liability issues for employers. Can your business risk an accident by an employee who went to happy hour and was a little buzzed when they left?

While we’re rethinking workplace traditions in the post-pandemic era, let’s think about how to get employees engaged. Maybe this outdated practice isn’t the best way to build your team anymore.

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Business News

You absolutely don’t need to be a 100% match for a job to apply

(CAREER) Most people believe they should only apply for their dream job if they’re a perfect match, but studies say that’s the wrong approach.

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apply for a job even if not 100% a match

You don’t need to be a 100 percent match for a job to apply. You just don’t.

We’ve all seen the crazy job postings:

-Must be fluent in Mandarin
-Must be be full-stack coder
-Must also have real estate license
-Must be a rockstar ninja (uuugh)

After seeing endless open positions with specific requirements, it’s no wonder that so many job seekers become discouraged. How can anyone fit 100 percent of the requirements on the job listing? And actually, most people don’t. According to a recent study, you only need to meet ~70 percent of the job requirements to be a good fit for a job.

So you’re telling me a requirement isn’t actually a requirement?!

The study analyzed job postings and resumes for over 6,000 positions across 118 industries, and they found that applicants are just as likely to get an interview whether you meet 50 percent or 90 percent of the requirements.

Crazy, I know. That law of diminishing returns will eff you up.

But what about women? I wondered the same thing. Surprisingly, the interview data was in favor of women that meet less of the requirements. In fact, the study shows that as a female, the likelihood of getting an interview increases if you simply meet 30 percent of the requirements. Also, female applicants are just as likely to get an interview if they meet 40 percent versus 90 percent of the job requirements.

Before you start complaining that women have it better in the job search process, correlation doesn’t equal causation.

Interestingly enough, 64 percent of the female users rejected at least one job where they matched 50 – 60 percent of the requirements, while only 37 percent of male users did. This leads us to believe there more implicit factors to take into consideration, like imposter syndrome throughout the interview process.

If you’re a recruiter or employer, this may seem like more work. But in an increasingly competitive job market for both employers and applicants, this presents an opportunity to get to know people for who they actually are, not just on paper. And resumes often do a poor job of reflecting that — especially the ever-important soft skills.

Key takeaways:

As we’ve gone through this study, here are a few practical action items for job seekers:

1. Apply for a lot of jobs to increase your number of interviews.

The study shows that increased interviews are a direct result of increased applications, not just picking and choosing what you think you’re a good fit for. Which brings us to our next point:

2. Go for those “stretch” roles — you never know what may come of it!

Send in a lot of applications, but don’t let that stop you from approaching the process thoughtfully. Recruiters can tell if you’ve skimped on the cover letter or your resume, and a thoughtful approach to the application process will be noticed and appreciated by recruiters, especially for those reach roles.

3. Don’t second-guess yourself.

We’re always our own worst critics, and according to this, we don’t need to be — especially throughout the job application process. Job hunting is stressful enough, so put on your most upbeat playlist (or Beyonce), say your affirmations, and go on with your bad self and start applying!

This story was first published here in December 2018.

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