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Reasons for Hope

by Beth on October 21st, 2019

I started studying women in the workplace fifteen years ago. I’ve written blogs about retaining female talent and gender bias. I also wrote a blog about my frustration with the lack of progress being made towards gender equality. It was in part this frustration that led me to refocus my work on well-being in the workplace. I felt I could help women more by sharing strategies for how to thrive at work despite the challenges they continue to face.

Fortunately, there are many people still working hard to identify ways to close the gender gap. Here are some promising initiatives:

  • One of the biggest obstacles women face is not getting promoted to manager. The recently released Women in the Workplace survey by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org shows that women are getting stuck in entry level positions. Specific recommendations for fixing this problem include setting goals to hire more women into management positions, requiring a diverse slate for promotion decisions, and providing unconscious bias training.
  • Unconscious bias is especially hard to eliminate, but scientists have been studying ways to reduce it. VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab at Stanford has partnered with the diversity consulting firm Paradigm and LeanIn.org to create a card-based activity that highlights 50 specific examples of gender bias in the workplace. The activity encourages group discussion and problem-solving, then offers research-backed recommendations for reducing bias.  
  • Harvard professor Iris Bohnet and her colleagues discovered that gender bias is reduced when hiring and promotion decisions are made by considering several candidates at the same time, what they call “bundle decisions”.
  • One of the biggest rays of hope is that Melinda Gates has just pledged $1billion to promote gender equality. She believes we are at a moment when extraordinary progress is possible. She has identified 3 strategies for expanding women’s power and influence: 1) dismantle barriers to women’s professional advancement, 2) fast-track women in sectors with outsized impact on our society, like technology, media, and public office, and 3) amplify external pressure from shareholders, consumers, and employees on institutions in need of reform.

I agree with Melinda that the “unprecedented energy and attention around gender equality” at this time gives us reason to be optimistic. And I am grateful to everyone who is continuing to fight the good fight!

From → Working women

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