“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.” – Oprah Winfrey at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Let’s be clear, 2017 was the year of the woman. From Wonder Woman becoming a blockbuster hit grossing over $100 million in its first weekend, women in the entertainment industry speaking out about sexual harassment and unsolicited advances in the workplace, to about 600 sister marches held across the country and the world to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington, one thing is for certain: Women and their stories dominated 2017. So much so that major news outlets devoted them countless headlines and prime time news segments began taking a closer look at these women’s stories, causing companies to become brutally aware of their own sexual harassment policies (see Matt’s post here).
There is no doubt that the rush of sexual harassment claims came to a head earlier this month during the blackout at the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Dressed in an embellished all-black gown, Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Oprah Winfrey gave a riveting speech that demanded for time to be up on the old way of doing business. Winfrey’s acceptance speech highlighted women who have endured years of sexual harassment at their jobs and called for a change in the gender disparities in representation, hiring, and pay in and outside of the entertainment industry.
In the age of #Metoo and Time’s Up, what are some things that companies can do and focus on to correct pay and gender leadership disparities in their organizations?
Don’t just talk the talk, do the walk. Take a look at the data (examples: the number of women in leadership positions, promotion of women as compared to men, and compensation comparisons) and be honest with the executive team and the organization as a whole. This not only gets down to the truth, but it also enables accountability. If the organization admits its shortcomings to its employees, it’s more likely to make some systemic changes. But don’t stop there. Salaries and promotions should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure equal treatment.
2) Give women a seat at the table.
This is an easy one, but ensuring that women are part of diversified hiring panels intrinsically ensures that women are selected for positions at a much higher rate. In a 2015 study of the entertainment industry, results showed that when women directors and executive producers were at the helm of hiring decisions, they served as an entryway for more women to be selected for behind-the-scenes roles. Additionally, a diverse slate of candidates should purposefully be presented to the hiring panel. Of course, the goal is not to present women candidates just for the sake of presenting them, but to make sure there is access for the most qualified and diverse candidate pool.
3) Make gender equality part of training and education.
All employees should feel equally supported in choosing jobs that support their talents and challenge them to learn new skills. These jobs should have clearly demonstrable goals, be future-oriented, and lead to long, promising careers.
This starts with reviewing the employee handbook and company policies. Make flexibility and work-life balance a part of the company culture. Oftentimes, though a company’s policies indicate that flexible work schedules are available, women employees are forced to specifically ask to work part-time or from home, which can lead to an uncomfortable conversation. Be proactive about welcoming women and supporting their career goals.