Britain’s new law requiring all companies with 250 or more employees to publically report their salary data and identify their gender pay gaps went into effect in April 2018. The gaps identified surprised no one: gender-based pay disparities exist at a vast majority of businesses, and often by a wide margin, according to Liz Alderman of the New York Times. A number of Western countries have recently taken similar steps with requiring gender gap reporting, operating from the same assumption that transparency and shame will force change. Gaps exist at some notable British companies:
Women are running for office in record numbers since the 2016 election. Michael Tackett of the New York Times writes that Clinton’s loss triggered not only a surge of female candidates but also a surge of young women managing campaigns and “reshap[ing] a profession long dominated by men.” Many women running for office want female campaign managers who will shape winning messages and plan bold platforms and strategies. Tackett reports that this year, 40 percent of campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women—a dramatic increase from the negligible numbers counted in a 2010 study conducted by Rutger’s University Center for American Women and Politics.
The #MeToo Movement has surprising momentum and appears to be reshaping our national dialogue and workplace cultures—at last! It seems that every week we read about high profile men (and some women) getting fired for sexual harassment. Almost every organization I work with as a consultant reports firing or disciplining employees in a variety of roles and levels for sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has been in the news at various times in the past, including in 1991 when Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Senate confirmation hearing. But we have not been able to grasp the seriousness of the problem as a society, “believe the women” bringing accusations, or undertake research that can help us understand the depth and breadth of the problem. Susan Chira of the New York Times cites Holly Kearl, author of an important new study, as explaining why we must take this problem seriously: “Sexual harassment is a human rights violation—whether it takes place on the sidewalk of a street or in an executive boardroom—because it can cause emotional harm and limit and change harassed persons’ lives.” I can personally attest to that.
Doing Harm by Maya Dusenbery, a new book recently reviewed in the New York Times by Parul Sehgal, is a rich collection of studies and statistics that reveal sexism at every level of medicine. Sehgal notes that the core message of the author is that the ancient distrust of women to be reliable narrators of their own experiences or their bodily pain is linked to the current “believe women” moment we are in as more speak out in the “Me Too” movement. The author also points out that this suppression of women’s voices is linked to how frequently women get interrupted in meetings and how rarely women are quoted as experts. Women’s voices are ignored or belittled and, in addition to the other challenges we face, this dynamic impacts our ability to get good medical care. Dusenbery offers multiple examples to make her point:
Recent changes in laws in New York, California and Delaware that were designed to end the gender pay gap by forbidding employers from asking about previous salary when interviewing candidates during the hiring process may have unintended negative consequences. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times writes that conscious and unconscious bias can still be at play and might even make the gender pay gap worse:
- When employers cannot ask about salary, they might assume that a woman will accept less than a man and offer a particularly low salary.
After reading a recent article by Sendhil Mullainathan in the New York Times, I understood what my black colleagues mean when they say that having white allies gives them room to breathe. What are allies? The North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) offers these helpful definitions:
- Allies validate and support people who are different from themselves.
- Allies examine their own prejudices and privileges and are not afraid to look at themselves.
- Allies act to be part of the solution.
Inspiring news about women’s progress comes from many parts of the world. We all need some good news these days, so I am glad to shine a spotlight on a few of them:
Iceland: Katrin Bennhold, writing for the New York Times, identifies Iceland as practically a gender utopia. She explains that
- Selling pornography has been banned in Iceland since 1869.
- Iceland directly elected the world’s first female president in 1980.
- Iceland elected the world’s first openly lesbian prime minister in 2009.
Not long ago, a woman coaching client, who was trying to find a vision for herself for the next stage of her life, explained that she could not come up with any women who were role models to inspire her. She was looking for a public figure. She asked me to name some women—and it took me a long time to name only a few. I have been on the lookout ever since for inspiring women in public life, and I find Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC to be one of them.
Gender bias can be subtle and difficult to understand. At the beginning of my women’s leadership programs, many women cannot see it and eventually discover that it is so much a part of their daily lives, they have become numb to it. The following are some recently published examples of gender bias from the media, finance and biopharma, economics, and Wall Street that silence women’s voices and create barriers to women’s participation in shaping our world.
Women are breaking barriers and forging new pathways. Michael Tackett of the New York Times reports that because they are dismayed by the direction the country is going and energized by the Women’s March in 2017 after Trump’s inauguration, women are running for office in record numbers. Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, the largest national organization devoted to electing female candidates, reports that more women than ever before have contacted Emily’s List about running for office. Schriock notes that about a thousand women contacted Emily’s List in the year before the 2016 election, but in the twelve months since the election, twenty-two thousand women have contacted the organization. Here’s what we know at this point: