Editor’s note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column about management and leadership as well as diversity and other important issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesdays.
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Ahh, the Eisenhower Administration! The Cold War intensifies when America announces it has developed a hydrogen bomb. The Rosenbergs are executed for spying, and silent film great Charlie Chaplin leaves the country for good after being alleged a communist. On a happier note, “I Love Lucy” is the nation’s top television show, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II takes place on June 2, 1953.
Seven decades isn’t a timespan we frequently think about. However, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, 70 years should be in the front of our minds, because this is the number of years it will take for women’s pay to catch up to men’s. In other words, according to the International Labour Organization, unless significant changes are made soon, women around the world will continue to be unfairly paid for the rest of your lifetime and most likely for the lives of many of your children.
As the father of three daughters and the husband of a strong woman leader, this pay equity gap is something I have witnessed firsthand. As a business executive, one of my primary goals in co-founding The Diversity Movement was to identify, promote and support women leaders. I am proud to say that TDM is a women-led organization.
Let’s call the pay equity gap for what it is – a travesty. But, since I am an eternal optimist, let’s not focus solely on the seven-decade delay and instead think about ways to close the gap, starting in your workplace and with the efforts you can take right now.
WOMEN LEADERS CREATE RETURN ON INVESTMENT
I’ve written frequently about the real-world benefits of hiring women leaders. I’ve seen the power on the boards I sit on and in my daily work with an outstanding team.
Yet, here’s the challenge: In the United States, women make up 47% of the labor force, but hold only 41% of management roles and just 31% of senior leadership positions. When race and ethnicity are considered, the disparities become clearer. According to Catalyst.org and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while White women hold one third of all management positions, Latina women and Black women hold drastically smaller shares at 4.3% each, and women of Asian heritage hold just 2.7%. Put bluntly, women’s representation – especially when we’re talking about women of color – is not in good shape.
C-Suite executives know better and the research proves it. Women leaders immediately strengthen organizations across several measurable areas. For example, the Peterson Institute for International Economics explained, “Companies with women in leadership positions are more profitable than those without.” Furthermore, McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace 2022” study revealed that women leaders create higher employee retention, increased engagement and productivity.
C-SUITE CHEAT CODE: FOUR ACTION STEPS TO TAKE TODAY
Board members and senior executives can take positive steps to rectify pay equity gaps right away, if they are willing to identify the internal obstacles. Depending on your industry, fighting for pay equality might not even be a popular cause, so it may require some toughness to take a stand. The system could not have gotten so lopsided if a lot of people weren’t willing to look the other way.
Here are my recommendations for actionable steps any leader can take right away:
– Pay Equity Analysis: Search for the data that measures whether your women leaders are making the full amount for every dollar that men are making. You might think you’re doing well, but don’t let your gut instinct cloud your judgment. It is essential to run the data so you can form an objective opinion.
– Identify Pain Points and Roadblocks: The data will provide a guiding perspective, but dig deeper to find the root causes of pay inequity. There may be job- and performance-related factors at play, but there might also be unconscious bias that has set a precedent that doesn’t align with your organizational values. Identifying the roadblocks can help you obliterate them, a strong first step in overcoming the challenge.
– Advocate Loudly: As a senior executive, you can make pay equity a priority and launch the conversation within your leadership team or board of directors. On a personal level, your actions that support women in the workplace will signal to others that this is important for the company’s future.
– Question Assumptions: Ask women leaders at all levels in your organization what actions they would like to see to create a more supportive environment. Next, deliberately consider how work policies regarding remote/hybrid, work hours, PTO and other guidelines might help women leaders, especially if they are taking on additional responsibilities as partner or caregiver, a role which we know is usually filledby women.
After you’ve discovered where your company sits on the pay equity scale, you can take many actions, but the ones I have listed above are significant first steps toward creating a more equitable and just workplace.
If you want to learn more about how to create an authentic celebration and commemoration of women’s achievements throughout this month, I encourage you to download TDM’s Women’s History Month Programming Guide, which lays out actionable steps for communication, education, public service and supplier diversity. One great thing about Women’s History Month is that nearly everyone knows at least one woman who inspires them to do and be great, whether that’s a caregiver, daughter, partner, friend, coworker, history-maker or celebrity.
Remember: How we support the women in our lives is the true meaning of Women’s History.
About the Author
Donald Thompson founded The Diversity Movement to literally change the world. As CEO, he has guided its work with hundreds of clients and through hundreds of thousands of data touch points. TDM’s global recognition centers on tying DEI initiatives to business objectives. Recognized by Inc., Fast Company and Forbes, he is the author of Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, hosts the podcast “High Octane Leadership in an Empathetic World” and has published widely on leadership and the executive mindset. As a leadership and executive coach, Thompson has created a culture-centric ethos for winning in the marketplace by balancing empathy and economics. Follow him on LinkedIn for updates on news, events, and his podcast, or contact him at email@example.com for executive coaching, speaking engagements or DEI-related content.