February 19, 2013

Rise of the Woman?

The University off British Columbia has awoken from years of gender pay inequity and decided to grant all 880 tenured or tenured-track female faculty a 2% wage increase effective immediately and retroactive to July 1, 2010. This act — costing more than $2 million — was in response to a study performed by the University’s Equity Office and although one-time in nature, does send a message that pay inequality will no longer be tolerated. One might argue that’s (finally) taking a stand even though it doesn’t fully address the inequality of pay between men and women faculty.

Also in Canada, four of the country’s ten provinces are now (finally) led by female Premiers including:

  • Christie Clark, British Columbia
  • Alison Redford, Alberta
  • Kathleen Wynne, Ontario
  • Pauline Marois, Quebec

These four provinces account for 83% of the country’s total population, a first for Canada.

woman1In the world of high-tech, Boards are (finally) giving the CEO pilot seat to females such as Ginni Rometty (IBM), Meg Whitman (HP) and Marissa Mayer (Yahoo!). Let’s not forget other fabulous women non-CEO leaders in high-tech organizations such as Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Padmasree Warrior (Cisco) and Selina Tobaccowala (SurveyMonkey).

And on the global political stage, we’re very familiar (finally) with the outstanding work of Angela Merkel (Germany), Hillary Clinton (USA) and Julia Gillard (Australia).

Pundits will scoff. Naysayers will assert this is merely a drop in the bucket and that true gender equality across pay, leadership and innovation is a far-fetched dream. But is it? Are we not (finally) witnessing ‘rise of the woman’?

Well, not really. (and that is quite sad)

Over twenty years ago in an HBR article entitled “Women as a Business Imperative“, author Felice Schwartz found that 37% of managers were in fact women. Not great. Fast forward to 2012 in Canada and Statistics Canada reports female managers comprise 35.4% of the working population. Not good at all.

Additional fodder. Although the aforementioned CEO’s (Rometty, Whittman and Mayer) may be great examples to highlight, has the actual percentage of Fortune 500 companies employing a female CEO increased over the past twenty years? It has, but only marginally. Whereas female CEO’s made up 4% of the Fortune 500 population twenty years ago, it now sits at a paltry 7%.

Further studies by Catalyst indicate F500 Board composition is nothing to be proud of either. Current day female penetration of corporate boards is estimated at a measly 14.5% which is (thankfully) up from 6.2% in 1998. Let’s not mention the debacle that centered around female quotas on corporate boards in the European Union this past year.

woman2Personally, I’m pleased to see mainstream media highlight the stories of the women mentioned above. My problem? It’s not enough. We need more of it. Stories provide role models for both men and women to follow in today’s organizations. It also serves as a powerful teaching and inspirational tool for both boys and girls in the K-12 spectrum. Yes, we need more of it.

And now I’ll get personal. Our daughters Claire and Cate (aged 9 and 5) need to enter the workforce without this ridiculous level of gender inequality. Our son Cole (aged 7) will grow up — at least in our household — knowing Marissa and Sheryl are as cool as any male counterpart in the high-tech arena.

Our organizations should also be highlighting stories of female managers and directors — if they aren’t doing so already — such that a conscious effort is given to internally market and position leaders equally. It may be “The End of Men” but I believe we have a ways to go in the organization if we aspire to true equality.

No one wants their work environment to be composed of or to be led by men only. (Unless of course you are a misogynist) It is time to help drive ‘rise of the woman’ inside the organization so that future leaders — like my kids, for example — don’t have to wait for the glacial pace of change as it pertains to an equal footing of female and male Managers, CEO’s and Board members.


Perhaps President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls 2012 report says it best:

“The success of American women is critical for the success of American families and the American economy. And in order for our nation to keep moving forward, women must be able to help provide for their families and contribute fully to our economy.”

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