Women.Leadership.Race 2018 – Are We There Yet?
As we “march” out of Black History Month 2018 and into Women’s History Month 2018, I continue to wonder how far we have come as women.
Today, so many women are kicking down doors, making their voice heard, and not only taking their seat at the table but women are now TAKING the table!! Yassss!! (we say) But can we afford to relax? Are we done or is the fight still real?
Are women receiving equal pay? Are we really taking our seat at the table or waiting for the offer to sit? With respect to the great movements right now, “Me Too” and “Times Up”, are women having to fight hard to be the “boss” and to simply be respected for our knowledge and expertise rather than our sexuality? Can we afford to relax our fight for equality now that there is a heightened lens on gender inequality?
What about Women of Color (WOC)? Are Women of Color fighting even harder to ‘measure up’ in the eyes of their colleagues, constituents, and industry makers?
LOOK AT THE FACTS
Here are some interesting facts according to the Center for American Progress:
Women are about 52% percent of the U.S. population.
- Women earn almost 60% of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of all master’s degrees.
- Women earn 47% of all law degrees and 48 percent of all medical degrees.
- Women earn 38% of MBA’s and 48% of specialized master’s degrees.
- Women account for 47% of the U.S. labor force and 49 percent of the college-educated workforce.
However, women continue to fall behind in various leadership roles.
- Women are only 25 % of executive- and senior-level officials and managers.
- Women hold 20% of board seats, and are only 6 % of CEO’s.
- In the financial services industry, women make up 54 % of the labor force but are only 29% of executive- and senior-level managers and 2% of CEO’s.
- In the legal field, women are 45% of associates but only 22% of partners and 18% of equity partners.
- In medicine, women make up 37% of all physicians and surgeons but only 16% of permanent medical school deans.
- In higher education, women are only 31% of full professors and 27% of college presidents.
- In 2014 it was reported that women were only 20% of executives, senior officers, and management in U.S. high-tech industries. As recently as 2016, 43% of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all.
It is also no secret that women are still trailing behind in the film industry and in politics. Women are still fighting to be recognized for their intelligence and gifts, and be paid as much as male colleagues. But what about women of color?
According to the US Census Bureau 30% of the population are people of color and expected to grow to 50% by 2042. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing minority group in the United States.
Women of color were only 3.9 percent of executive- or senior-level officials and managers and 0.4 percent of CEO’s in S&P 500 companies.
In governance (board membership) – only 14% of board members are people of color and even lower for women, especially women of color.
I speak to many women of color who are in the workplace, business or management roles. The majority of these women report that they continue to feel like they have to push extra harder to be recognized for a raise, a contract or simply to be considered for advancement. There is a hidden line in the sand that requires women of color to work under the pressure of speaking the wrong language or being misunderstood as aggressive because they choose to speak up for themselves. This must change and it only changes with deliberate intention and action to make change for ALL women regardless of race, culture, religion or sexuality.
I love that Angela Rye, CNN Commentator, recently told a group of students in Memphis, “don’t just stay woke, work woke.” This says to me that we can’t afford to relax in this fight for gender equality. We can’t afford to recognize the problem and read the statistics but do nothing.
What Can We Do?
As women and men, we have to continue to find ways to not only level the playing field but ensure that women are also on the starting team. Diversity does not work without full inclusion. Therefore, the presence of women must be accompanied by decision making influence.
Here are some practical steps that you can take to elevate your voice or elevate the voice of women:
- Join a non-profit board. Seek out an organization that is aligned with something that you believe in and offer your expertise. Your expertise is just as valuable as monetary donation. Let the board know up front what you can contribute – volunteering, increasing the exposure of the organization, fundraising, website maintenance, social media, human resource management, etc. Identify an existing gap on the board or within the organization and figure out how you can fill that gap for the organization.
- Conduct your own salary review. Take a look at your earnings and compare it to the earnings of people in a similar position and field. If you believe that you are due a raise, gather all of your information and ask for it. Perhaps you may not get it the first time but asking for it will help build your confidence to ask again. It has been reported that women earn less then men because men are more likely to ask for a higher salary while women are less likely to demand their worth.
- If you are in a hiring position, actively seek out women of color. In order to attract women of color, conduct recruitment activities through local affinity groups of professional women of color, churches that are predominantly Black or Hispanic, and explicitly state it in your job postings. There is nothing wrong with saying that you are an organization that promotes hiring people of color. This will not take the place of your recruitment practices but it will add a lens of equity while you search for the best candidate.
- As a manager or supervisor, take the time to participate in diversity and inclusion trainings. If you are managing people or women of color, you must take the time to ensure that there is always equity in promotions, retention and professional development opportunities. Now, if you are a manager or supervisor of color, this also applies to you. Diversity and inclusion trainings will help you as a manager to remain focused on balance and acceptance regardless of race or skin color.
- Promote collaborative efforts with other women. As a business professional, some of my greatest success has come out of collaborations with other women. I received my first job many years ago as a cosmetologist from my teacher who opened a salon and realized that she did not have the capacity to reach the ethnic population. She took the time to seek out women like myself who could do that. She hired me to reach the African-American population, she hired two Latina women who already had a strong presence in that community and an Irish woman who was a boss with scissors and the men! We were a force to be reckoned with because we worked together. Don’t be afraid to share your platform with another woman. Step back, her gifts will only elevate yours.
One of my favorite stories: When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked by a group of law students when she thought there will be enough women on the court. The 80+ Supreme Court justice simply said, “when there are nine.” She did not hesitate, she did not waiver, she did not talk loud and she did not water down her answer with explanation.
Don’t relax, don’t apologize for demanding more, take a breath but keep fighting for ALL women. We are not there yet.
Yolanda is the Founder and Executive Consultant of BeyondMeasureLLC. She provides leadership, management and work style trainings with a focus on diversity, inclusion and race relations.
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