McKinsey released the results of a new global survey this month- Moving Mindsets on Gender Diversity. The results offer powerful and timely data on what is required beyond working with women themselves to increase gender diversity in the top echelons of business. Two key elements- 1)engaging men and 2)the need for cultural change within the organizations themselves emerged. A few salient points:
• The women in the survey overwhelmingly expressed their belief in their ability to operate effectively at the most senior levels of their organizations and also were just as likely as men to desire those positions. In fact, Seventy-nine percent of all midlevel or senior-level women say they have the desire to reach a top-management position over the course of their careers, compared with 81 percent of midlevel or senior men.
• The men in the survey, however, while overwhelmingly “agreeing” that women can lead as effectively as men were far less likely to “strongly agree” than the women were revealing a lingering hesitancy that may undermine enthusiasm for some diversity efforts.
• Not surprisingly, even though 75% of men believe that “diverse leadership teams with significant numbers of women” generate superior business results, significantly fewer men – 68% vs 93% of women- believe that women have “much more difficulty reaching top management positions.”Importantly over half or 54% of men believed that “ having too many gender diversity measures or initiatives to promote women leaders was unfair to men.”
• Women are largely aware of these attitudes -if not the specific data the overall atmosphere and attitude towards diversity within her organization. In fact, even if a woman, as referenced earlier, feels very confident that she is capable of operating at the most senior levels of her organization her confidence that she will get there depends more on whether or not she believes her organization’s culture is “compatible with women’s leadership styles” or with “gender diversity objectives.”
Mckinsey goes on to recommend that looking forward we engage more men as sponsors and that we diversify our performance models to better reflect a wide range of leadership styles. Both excellent suggestions. I further suggest the following:
• Educate: Men largely are unaware of the difficulties women face climbing the corporate ladder because no one has told them. In most cases these discussions are women talking to women or diversity and HR execs talking to each other and select group of very committed senior executives. If 75% of them agree that diverse teams are better for business then engage them in why that’s hard to achieve and how their awareness makes a difference.
• Demonstrate: I admit, this is similar to educate but it’s so powerful in it’s own right I had to include a separate bullet. I have a role play I do with client organizations which involves having an employee ask their manager for a seat on a powerful cross-functional committee. First, I have a female employee and a female manager play out the role play and then I ask the audience to rate the employee on her competence, assertiveness and likeability. Then I have a male employee do the exact same thing and ask audience to rate him across the same measures. And guess what happens? Inevitably the woman is rated competent but way too assertive and not likeable. The man on the other hand is rated as competent, just the right level of assertive and likeable. And yet they are using the exact same script. And no, it’s not style because it happens so often across so many different people. People are shocked- men AND women at their own biases. They begin to pay much more attention.
• Extrapolate: This step is the most important. Here is where you take the facts, figures and demonstrations and you apply them to a business case. I typically show highlights of the business case studies built by Catalyst and McKinsey that show how much more financially successful a gender diverse company is. But most powerful is to build an internal business case that talks about your company’s clients, your clients’ businesses and how gender diversity impacts your ability to be successful in your industry.
• Bring it Home: It never hurts to bring it home again. Sometimes I will ask a room full of men- “Does anyone have a daughter in college or going off to college in the next few years?” When several raise their hands or nod I ask- “Have you started coaching her yet? Because the average female college graduate starts out with a salary about $5k less than a male graduate.” Put that $5k in an IRA for 43 years- $1.3M her male peers will have at retirement that she will not. Then I tell my story- I have two daughters, 6 and 10. At current rates we will achieve parity in the Executive Suite in 2085- my 10 year old will be 82 and my 6 year old 78. No one I have met to date male or female finds that remotely acceptable. This isn’t just about how diversity initiatives impact your job today- it’s about your children and grandchildren too. So let’s be in this together.