A recent report by the World Economic Forum, "The Global Gender Gap," says that building strong economies requires equal opportunity. When women and girls are not represented, we all lose out on a huge range of skills, ideas and perspectives.
Full inclusion still seems to be a faraway goal--and the scarcity of women is especially stark in leadership. In my executive leadership coaching practice, I routinely see men move into positions with profit-and-loss responsibility while equally capable women are channeled into support roles. Even where men and women hold the same role, I see men receive the most complex and high-visibility projects.
Why does this continue to happen? Based on my experience, here are seven of the top issues:
1. Outdated norms and biases.
Most women have experienced harmful stereotypes, lowered expectations, and biases that left them feeling they were playing on an uneven field. We all have to be careful to be sure we aren't maintaining these harmful attitudes; even when we know better, subtle biases may be so ingrained that they're hard to see.
2. A gap in perception.
In a recent survey, 86 percent of men said women have as many or more opportunities than men do--but only 56 percent of women agreed. If you're feeling good about providing equal opportunities for women, ask the women who work with you if they agree. If trust is an issue, set up a confidential survey or reporting channel. And once you've asked, make sure you listen.
3. Unbalanced org charts.
If your organization has women in leadership but they're all in traditionally female fields like human resources or public relations, it's not likely that you're giving full opportunities. Look at the representation of women at every level across the spectrum, from IT to finance to logistics.
4. Continuous lip service.
Many companies and leaders say they're addressing issues of equality; they make statements and hand out awards, but they don't hold their own leadership accountable for their actions in the day-to-day work of hiring and management. If you say you want diversity but nothing is changing, match your actions to your words.
5. Unequal pay structures.
Men and women in the same position with the same background need to be paid equally--that much goes without saying. But you need to also make sure that comparable positions in male- and female-dominated fields pay the same.
6. Unaddressed family stress.
Women, much more than men, hold concerns about balancing work and family. And too many workplaces contribute to those concerns. Some hold women to a second-tier "mommy track" for advancement; others shut women out of key responsibilities if they take their full parental leave. Lots of models exist for policies that help employees remain productive while caring for their families--and they benefit men as well as women.
7. What happens at the top.
The executive offices always set the tone for the entire organization. The managers and supervisors who report up are likely to model your behavior. How are women represented in your staff? How do you treat the women you work with? The answers to that question; matters.
I see the effects of the lack of senior women leaders as I coach some of the top organizations around the world. It is our moral responsibility--regardless of culture or industry or sector--to take action, to stop holding women back and to advance their leadership everywhere. Why? Because no business can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men.