Workplaces still many years away from gender equality


While workplace gender parity is on the horizon, it may not come about for 21 years, according to a survey conducted recently by Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup, a global workforce solutions and staffing firm.

That’s according to members of the millennial generation worldwide who were surveyed. A whopping 97 percent of them said they will be the first generation to achieve equality for women in the workplace.

But it’s not going to happen overnight, apparently. Maybe in 2037.

Ask an established male leader, on the other hand, and the playing field will be leveled closer to 14 years from now. Perhaps things look rosier from the top. After all, the report points out, 95 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are men.

That really gets to the crux of the problem: a number of male leaders don’t recognize the size and depth of the disparity, or just how long it will take to even the odds.

The fact is, the odds are not in women’s favor. Particularly in male-dominated industries, the patriarchal succession plan is alive and well. A culture can be a difficult thing to change, and without guidance and advocacy, it can be tough for a woman, however hardworking, to rise to the top.

In total, the survey included 222 established and emerging leaders ages 28 to 59, of both genders, from 25 countries. It resulted in a report, “Seven Steps to Conscious Inclusion: A Practical Guide to Accelerating More Women into Leadership,” aimed at guiding the expected changes at a quicker pace.

Among the report’s insights is the acknowledgment across the board that men rule C-suites and it needs to change. That’s encouraging to hear from both sides.

About 59 percent of respondents said creating a gender-neutral culture is the most important step to advancing women into leadership roles, especially if it’s coming from the CEO. And 42 percent said flexible work arrangements are key to accommodating women’s leadership.

A growing number of business thought leaders are championing the flexible workplace and the potential benefits it can hold when structured properly. Instead of making sure butts are in seats, leaders could measure employees’ performance by their output, wherever and whenever it gets done. For mothers who are fulfilling the main caretaker role for their children, as they so often do, this kind of arrangement could mean the difference between quitting and being promoted.

Of course, this wouldn’t work in every situation, but it’s one solution offered by ManpowerGroup to take action on the ongoing problem.

Other solutions offered by respondents are also worth considering. Mentorship, training, communicating about commitment and focusing on outcomes are among the top suggestions to bridge the gap.

It’s time to take action on the gender inequality issue. We’ve been talking about the glass ceiling for decades – let’s not wait two more to make it right.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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