The number of women leaders in the largest companies in the United States declined by 25 percent this year, as reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times. Because the number of female chief executives is small to begin with, the departure of even one, such as the recent departure of Denise Morrison as the CEO of Campbell Soup Company, has a big numerical impact. In fact, the number of female CEOs has dropped from thirty-two to twenty-four in the past year.
The women of Nike, the sportswear company, got tired of their complaints to human resources about sexual harassment and discrimination falling on deaf ears. The women experienced retribution for filing complaints, and several high-level women left the company, sharing that they left because of frustration with the toxic company culture that they could not influence. So the women of Nike took matters into their own hands—and the public saw another example of employees bringing about change that would not have happened otherwise.
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.
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.
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:
Women in Physics and Medicine: Closing the Gender Pay Gap, Increasing Respect, and Decreasing Burnout
New studies on women in physics and medicine find continuing disparities in pay and promotions. Audrey Williams June, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, reports the results of a new study by the Statistical Research Center at the American Institute of Physics showing a gender pay gap of 6 percent for female faculty members in physics. The study also found that men are overrepresented in senior faculty roles and that women receive fewer grants for research and lab space.
For women in medicine, the issues can be severe. Dhruv Khullar of the New York Times reports that female physicians
Women have always found ways to help each other survive racism and sexism in the workplace by meeting informally outside of work for validation and support. This support might be in the form of listening to and understanding stories of mistreatment; sharing tips for how to deal with discrimination, salary negotiation, and work-life balance; or sharing the names of sexual predators to increase a woman’s ability to protect herself at work. Women across the decades and occupations have always benefited from this type of support in safe spaces such as living rooms and coffee shops. But the rise of the internet has opened important new forms of safe space.
When my cousin’s daughter was five or six years old, she was obsessed with becoming a professional baseball player. She would only wear a baseball uniform, including a baseball cap for her favorite team, and was rarely without her catcher’s mitt. It broke my heart to know that she would never be able to realize her dream because she was female. That was a long time ago, but not much has changed for women in professional baseball. For this reason, I found it inspiring to read about two women who are pioneers in the sport: Jessica Mendoza and Claire Smith. They are ESPN baseball analysts and journalists who are battling sexism in the sport to have their talents recognized. My niece never had a chance to see women in these roles when she was young. While not in center field, sports analysts and journalists are still important roles.
As a member of the hiring committee of a nonprofit’s board of trustees, I recently worked with an executive search firm to fill a CEO vacancy in the organization. The search firm representative asked us if we wanted to screen out women over fifty from the candidate pool. We were surprised and asked, “Why would we?” The reply was, “Most of our clients won’t consider hiring women over fifty, and we don’t want to waste your time or ours by including them if you want us to screen them out.” Wow! This question was asked quietly, since it is illegal to discriminate based on age, but it was asked because this dynamic is so prevalent.