Did you know that only 24% of senior leaders are women? That’s an increase of 3% since 2011. At this rate it will be 2060 before we reach gender parity.
This means that your granddaughter might have a shot at gender equality at work. Not you. Not your daughter.
No one wants to feel like a victim, to look at your truly ambitious, hard-working self and feel helpless to do anything to change the gender disparity in your company.
So what can you do to promote gender equality in the workplace?
To get some ideas, I spoke with Tracy Layney, Chief Human Resources Officer for Shutterfly and a passionate contributor to HR thought leadership organizations such as the HR Strategy Forum and CHREATE, The Global Consortium to Reimagine HR, Employment Alternatives, Talent and the Enterprise.
Layney is hopeful about the future, noting the increase in diversity initiatives from companies in Silicon Valley and throughout the country. She sees the biggest impact in companies who incorporate diversity as a core leadership value rather than just depending on one-off diversity initiatives.
On its own, training won’t get the job done. She is also encouraging. While you’re waiting for this seismic shift to occur, you’re not helpless.
Here are two important things you can do:
Know your power and your value.
Choose your employer carefully.
Know your power and your value.
If you’re working for a company that has publicly declared an intention to increase diversity, let that increase your confidence. They want to promote you.
A common catch phrase in Silicon Valley is, “We want our employees to look like our customers.” Layney proudly shared that 80 percent of Shutterfly’s customers are women and that Shutterfly is close to gender parity for its employees. Under her leadership, diversity will continue to be a core value for the company.
She encourages women to embrace their power as a member of a highly sought-after demographic.
Studies show that women are more naturally attuned to the emotions of others, which can make you a great collaborator and inspiring leader. Be confident in sharing examples of your success using your Emotional Intelligence to get results.
Harvard Business Review article, “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, illustrates that leaders can’t recognize the difference between confidence and competence...so you need to increase your bravado without losing your collaborative management style.
Here are three steps to understand and articulate your value to increase your bravado at work.
1. What you think: Confidence starts in your mind, what you think of yourself. Do you sabotage yourself with negative self-talk, that you’re just not experienced enough to take on a bigger role, or more complex challenges? Be sure to share your accomplishments, even in the format of regular updates. Women are more likely to give credit to the team, but be sure to take some of the credit for yourself.
2. What you say: According to the Women in the Workplace study,* women who ask for a promotion are 54% more likely to get one. At the same time, they are 30% “more likely than men who negotiate to receive feedback that they are ‘intimidating,’ ‘too aggressive,’ or ‘bossy’.” There’s a good chance that you’ve heard this criticism in your career, so try not to take it personally. Just keep asking.
It’s not only what you say, but how you say it. Here are a couple of tools for you to put in your toolbox:
Don’t apologize: replace “I’m sorry” in your vocabulary unless you are truly apologizing for something. Instead of, “I’m sorry to interrupt, can I have a minute of your time,” try, “When is a good time for us to talk?”
Be curious. You may be nervous when asking for what you want, and it’s human nature to be offended if you’re told that you’re bossy or aggressive. Instead of apologizing or getting defensive when this happens, get curious. Instead of “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound too aggressive,” ignore the criticism and ask a question, “What would it take for me to be considered for a leadership position?”
3. What you do: There’s a reason why you got a no, and it may not be what you think. Ask!
Ask the reason why: “I’d like to know more about your decision so I can understand how I can bring more value to my role.” “I’d like to know more about your criteria so I can prepare for future opportunities.” And so on.
Ask about the future: “Under what conditions would I be eligible for a promotion?” “What criteria am I missing that I can focus on improving?” “What are the gaps you see in my current skills and how can I get to the next level?” “Can we revisit this in six months?”
Choose your employer carefully.
"Location, location, location!” is the oft-heard advice when you’re buying a house. You look for a house in the best neighborhood you can afford, with the best schools, the lowest crime rate, and a high score for walkability. Apply these criteria to your next job. While the tasks and responsibilities are important, think of the company culture as the neighborhood.
Layney is no stranger to the topic. She did this herself before joining Shutterfly in 2015. She highly recommends vetting your employer as you would any other serious partnership. Ask direct questions to uncover as much as you can about the culture.
Here are three steps to help you choose an employer who values diversity.
1. What you think: Again, it starts in your mind, what you think of yourself as a valuable employee. As women, we tend to be too grateful for a job offer when we get one, and are therefore more likely to accept it without doing enough research to be sure it’s a good fit. You’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you.
2. What you say: Layney advises women to ask for more. She learned early in her career that asking for more meant getting more, even when you get a no the first time. Learning to ask and building resilience to ask again are essential to getting ahead. Watch carefully how your potential employer reacts to your negotiation. If you feel like you’re being punished or patronized for asking, be forewarned that this may not be a good fit.
3. What you do: Research!
Look up reviews on Fairygodboss. Read the reviews rather than just look at their ratings. The ratings can be lower based on random employee experiences, such as, “I gave this company a 3 because they wouldn’t let me warm up my broccoli in the microwave. Who says broccoli is stinky these days? They are so out of touch with healthy eating habits!”
Look up their board members and leadership teams for diversity. Have they made any public commitments to diversity initiatives?
Ask questions about the culture as much as the job responsibilities. Ask for specific examples.
-Can you share an example of professional development opportunities I would have access to?
-Will I have a professional development budget to improve my skills? How would I access those opportunities (for example, do I submit a request to my manager for approval)? Would my manager encourage me to take classes that will help me advance my career (versus classes that make me better at this job)?
-Can you share examples of women who have been promoted internally? What is your attrition rate for women? Do you have a mentorship program in place?
-Has anyone on this team successfully transferred to other teams within the organization to advance her career?
-What is it like working here? Can you share specific examples of the people who have this type of job?
You have more power than you think, especially in organizations that have publicly made a commitment to hiring and promoting more women. Rather than waiting for corporate cultures to change, you can take charge!
Melissa Hereford has been a trainer and coach for 23 years in the corporate world. She teaches women solid communication skills to get Everyday Agreements: Be yourself. Get what you want. Build stronger relationships.
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