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Working Women

Working Women: The Power Status Gap

We’ll tell you right now that we are not the bearer of diversity and inclusion good tidings. We come bearing disheartening news for women and people of color. First – the old news.

working womenThe Brookings Institute had these ten findings about women in the workplace.

  1. Women’s labor force participation has stagnated and reversed since 2000
  2. The gap between wages of men and women has fallen over the past several decades, but a significant gender wage gap remains
  3. Almost 60% of women would earn more if they were paid the same as men with equivalent levels of education and work hours
  4. Disability and widowhood are major drivers of economic insecurity among older women
  5. A 10% expansion of the EITC could benefit working mothers and families by lifting more than 600,000 people out of poverty
  6. Many women face a tax penalty when they get married, which reduces their labor force participation.
  7. Women are more likely than men to stop working to care for elderly family members
  8. The U.S. is the only industrialized country without a national paid leave policy for mothers
  9. The cost of childcare makes center-based care—if not employment itself—unrealistic for many working mothers of young children
  10. Postsecondary degrees lead to better labor outcomes, but many student mothers face significant challenges

And yet, statistically speaking, women make better managers than men. Companies with more women on the Board of Directors have a better ROI for investors and other stakeholders. And diversity within a company is shown to lead to more innovation.

working womenThe new news is that people who promote diversity and inclusion within these companies may suffer consequences from those in a position of power. Specifically, women and minorities who promoted diversity within their organizations were given poorer performance ratings by their white male managers.

According to a recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal 350 executives in diverse companies were surveyed and it was determined that “engaging in diversity-valuing behaviors did not benefit any of the executives in terms of how their bosses rated their competence or performance” Furthermore, “women and nonwhite executives who were reported as frequently engaging in these behaviors were rated much worse by their bosses, in terms of competence and performance ratings, than their female and nonwhite counterparts who did not actively promote balance.”

In other words, the glass ceiling is very much intact.

These findings were corroborated in a survey of 307 working adults who were asked to review a hiring decision made by a fictitious manager. Participants read a description of the hiring decision, saw a photo of the manager that revealed their race and gender, and then completed a survey where they rated the manager on competence and performance.

We know that in the U.S., there is still a power and status gap between men and women and between whites and nonwhites. White men remain a high status group. When women and nonwhite leaders advocate for diversity and inclusion, they can jeopardize their own performance reviews and opportunities for professional development and promotion.

Potential solutions for working women

  • Work toward hiring practices that are unbiased. Consider replacing names on resumes with a number, or in other ways “blinding” the resume to those who have either a conscious or unconscious bias. In professional orchestras, auditions are now held with the auditioned behind a curtain.
  • Work on a diversity council to establish company wide best practices for diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Recruit white men as members of the diversity and inclusion team.
  • Shift some diversity and inclusion efforts to professional practitioners for planning and training, leaving implementation to the organization’s team.
  • Make sure upper level management is on board. Without support from the top, efforts could be much less successful.

Source: Harvard Business Review, “Women and Minorities are Penalized for Promoting Diversity”, Stefanie K. Johnson, David R. Hekman, Mar. 23, 2016

Source: Brookings, “10 facts about American women in the workforce”, Alison Burke. Dec. 5, 2017

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