Collaborative Leadership Blog

Equality & Justice for Women at Work

How can we effect change in the world when only half of it Is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?    —Emma Watson

With the 1st anniversary of the #MeToo movement, the first female Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 55 years, the imprisonment of Bill Cosby for rape, and recent disbelief by some men in women victims of sexual abuse, we are once again reminded of the gross inequality that exists between men and women. A recent Pew Research Center survey of women in high tech (2017) found that 50% of women experience gender discrimination, 36% have been sexually harassed, and most if not all earn significantly less than their male counterparts doing the same jobs.

At the end of the day, this is about male power, and it is time to say “Enough is Enough”. Why, after all the supposed consciousness-raising, is there still such inequality, disbelief, and abuse? Why did Susan Fowler, formerly of Uber, have to quit her dream engineering job to avoid being sexually harassed, leading to the firing of CEO Travis Kalanick? Why do we tolerate the engineer at Google who wrote a manifesto that women engineers were inferior to men? As Emily Chang cogently writes in her new book Brotopia, the culture of male dominance has yet to be transformed in Silicon Valley, or elsewhere.

What can be done by men to transform this corporate culture? We are the ones responsible for the culture of male dominance, so it is our responsibility to create equal, psychologically and physically safe workplaces based on mutual respect. According to a 2017 Boston Consulting Group study of 17,000 participants in 21 countries, there are 5 key things men can do to support their female co-workers:

  • Support flexible work policies
  • Model the right behaviors
  • Communicate fairly
  • Sponsor a high potential woman
  • Get involved with company-specific initiatives

Men can also insist on these additional steps to eliminate the culture of male power and dominance in business:

  • Core Value of Mutual Respect: Make sure the company has, as a core principle, the cornerstone of mutual respect for everyone, especially women, people of color, and people with any kind of difference—we must eliminate the culture of “the other”
  • Zero Tolerance Policy: Insist that the company have a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, misconduct, or abuse that holds perpetrators accountable
  • Equal Pay: Boards of Directors can be petitioned by men to ensure that women are paid the same as men for the same work
  • Advancement: Board HR committees can accelerate the advancement of high potential women to senior management ranks and Board membership
  • Performance Incentives: Male managers should be incented to treat their female employees equally and fairly relative to men during performance reviews

We men have a lot of work to do. But let’s think not about our female colleagues, but also our own daughters—how do we want them to be treated in the workplace? We can start now to end the inequality of power between the sexes, and create workplace cultures which empower women professionals to do their best work and so they can be their best selves.

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*Dr. Edward Marshall is an Adjunct Professor in Management at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; he is an ICF certified executive coach, Lifetime Top 15 Trust Thought Leader, and best-selling author of Building Trust at the Speed of Change. You can contact him at edward.marshall@duke.edu or (919)265-9616

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