Despite recent gains to shrink the gender wage gap, women are still woefully undervalued at work--in terms of their job titles, leadership roles, and more. But pushing those limits is indeed possible. Getting there is the question.

At a recent Women's History Month event in New York City, female leaders from Disney Streaming, Dow Jones, Nike, and Uber converged at General Assembly's networking space to debate how professional women can resist common practices that reinforce the gender gap in today's workplace.

Here are five key takeaways that apply to any leader, no matter your gender:

1. Shoot for jobs or projects you're not fully qualified for but passionately want.

"Men apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, where women apply when they meet 100 percent," said Ali Levitan, head of General Assembly's enterprise media practice.

Indeed, Sheryl Weaver, senior human resources manager at Uber, agreed and refers to this as the "confidence gap." She added that "if [women] are really transparent about what that gap is but are so passionate about that opportunity," they'll get the training they need to do the job effectively. Encourage managers to look for passion and not just a checklist of qualifications. 

The same is true for entrepreneurs. Plenty of females founders have failed to go after a client because they think it's too big or they think they don't have the resources to serve it. Or they accept the project for far less than what they should be paid. That is waning confidence talking. 

2. Hire diverse teams--without bias.

When you're in a position to hire, be cognizant of potential unintended biases. For starters, ask all the same questions to every job applicant, suggested Raakhee Mirchandani, head of diversity and inclusion at Dow Jones. "It seems so basic--but how many people really do this?" she added. 

By standardizing all interview questions across your candidate pool, you eliminate the potential for bias in the interviewing process, Mirchandani said. You'll then compare information by way of a common denominator.

To curb bias further, Uber's Weaver suggested making sure the interview panel is also diverse. 

3. New opportunities can come to you, if you sell yourself right.

"There is so much passive recruitment that organizations do now because people are not applying to jobs," said Trina Maynes, lead human resources partner at Nike. That passive search may also involve companies looking for professional service and other resource providers.

So, invest in your company's LinkedIn profile. Ask those you've worked with to add testimonials on your page, and ensure your headshot is powerful, Maynes suggested.

4. Help empower the coming generations of women.

If you are in a leadership position, give back. Weaver suggested joining Built by Girls, a New York-based nonprofit organization offering young women in high school and college mentor opportunities. Mentees may also access exclusive business events, internships, and career opportunities.

"There is a power in a mentor and a champion who knows your vision. We are all in a position to receive that and give that," Maynes said.

5. Bring men into the conversation.

"The truth is that the majority of executive leaders are men," said Ally Tubis, senior director of retention analytics at Disney Streaming. Often, they are unaware of the work imbalances women face--so educate them, she advised. Consider joining a networking organization or a local chamber of commerce to increase the likelihood you'll connect with men in leadership roles. Even if nothing materializes for your business, the work you do to improve empathy among this group might help future generations of women entrepreneurs.

Published on: Apr 5, 2019