We all know that in the US women earn less than men for the same work. We also know that this story is simplistic; that statistic, while true for every group of women, is much more dramatic if you are a woman of color. This complexity is an example of intersectionality - the phenomenon of experiencing more than one disadvantaging characteristic - and how it compounds the difficulty of not being a person in the majority in the workplace.
McKinsey & Company and Lean In have produced another issue of Women in the Workplace, their annual report of working life for women in large, American, for-profit companies. This year, the study focuses on this intersectionality between gender and race (and does not study, for example, intersections including different abilities or economic upbringing) and the findings continue to be discouraging. For all women, progress toward equity is stalling, but the look at statistics for women of color show that the rocket ship never left the launchpad - in spite of making up 19% of the US population, women of color are a dismal 3% of C-suite position-holders.
Some of the biggest and most persistent problems include:
1. Culture biases. Workplaces and work cultures, although changing, are still deeply rooted in white- and male-centric patterns (think: office temperature set at 68 degrees to accommodate 3 layers of suit or the work schedule which is incompatible with school schedules, assuming there is a stay-at-home parent to do pick-ups). Since the culture is dominantly male, for example, men "miss" instances of sexism, perceiving a better state of affairs than is experience by women. For women of color, discrimination that goes unnoticed by peers are multi-fold.
2. Work toward parity is still trying to "fix" the underdog. For years now, gender equity advocates have been admonishing women to negotiate more. However, this study reveals that no amount of negotiating will get you the job or raise without having to ask, which is what happens for men more often than for women. To fix parity, we have to fix the structure, not the people who have been left behind.
3. People getting the short end of the stick are still largely working toward parity in isolation. The majority of actions that correlated most strongly with better DE&I outcomes (and also with better bottom lines...) are in place in less than half of the organizations studied, and managers and young men do not feel diversity (in the case of young men, gender diversity) is a big priority. Since men and managers are often the people tasked with implementing these impactful strategies, their apathy is holding us all back.
The study does offer some suggestions; here are a few:
- Make the case for gender diversity to get more people (and men!) invested
- Do more training - of both managers and employees, and focus on how to intervene in a bad situation
- Track the data and share it with everyone
For the full study, see www.womenintheworkplace.com.
Do you experience intersectionality? Did I miss something important to this story? Share in the comments or contact me at abcontractor@WorkplaceEquityPartners.com.