By Cindy Tarasow
“You’ve come a long way baby”, was the very popular tagline for a brand of cigarettes designed for women in the 1970’s. Fast forward to 2016 ’where tobacco advertisements are prohibited and the female empowerment sentiment may be replaced with, “You’ve only come part way”.
Recently the Harvard business review reports that while 74% of employees are aware that their companies are working to promote diversity and inclusion in the workforce, most also say that don’t see much effect from these efforts. The Conference board of Canada analyzed employment data from 1987 – 2009 and confirmed that the proportion of women in middle management rose by about 4 percent. At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal.
But will it? Could such a dismal speed continue; or are we at the perfect demographic storm where preparation meets opportunity? I believe gender diversity and inclusion can accelerate with new technology, continued mentorship with sponsorship and women continuing to communicate their strong and confident brand. It is logical that with this slow and steady work behind us, we should be able to maximize the vacated opportunities left open when the male cohort of Senior Management and Executives soon retire. So below highlights three actions that can help accelerate our collective efforts to narrow this gender divide.
First it is about volume. We need to continue to identify capable women into talent pools and high potentials. Today’s technology goes far beyond simply replicating a flawed hierarchical, paternalistic, unconscious or openly bias process into an electronic format. Today we can qualify talent regardless of gender, race and level the playing field of information exchange through social media rather than the golf course, and we need to get started. Yes, there will be resistance but without lessening the bondage of old systems and increasing our numbers in talent pools, how can we expect to significantly advance?
Mentorship has been highly effective in raising women’s awareness of the limitations they impose on themselves and enabling them to manage their careers in a male-centric environment. But after all, the mentoring is complete, mentorship without sponsorship is resulting in less success. We need to recommend women for progressive roles, we need to suggest that an executive meets your mentee to discuss their ideas to solve a business problem, we need to actively promote, and “sell” our sisters capability because words without action is…well words.
Lastly, as competent, capable and intelligent problem solvers we need to each continue articulating our brand with confidence. The vital importance of networking creates opportunities for broader professional exposure, and opportunity to build brand-confidence. People in general commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence and fooled into believing than men are better leaders than women. So to address this social fallacy we must continue to apply the networking tools to uncover our authentic “charisma”.
There is no better time than now to accelerate our success. Women are dominantly represented in Human Resources and can implement new technology that eliminates bias in talent selection. Women mentorship programs are well represented and can continue to grow in efficacy with sponsorships. And while winds of demographic change will favour our efforts, each of us can always improve our confidence in personal branding and value proposition for advantage and say, “we did it!”
Originally posted 2016-02-19 18:07:42.