Stop gender stereotyping if you want more women to reach top jobs

When I first started my career in the male-dominated gaming industry, I personally encountered gender biases. Promotions, whether in terms of position or salary, were more difficult to obtain even as my managerial responsibilities increased. This has perpetuated a growing gender gap, not only in pay, but also in terms of promotions, training and opportunities offered.

I felt the urge to prove myself twice as much as men did, and I started to accept that this was just ‘the way it is’.

Then everything changed when a new chef arrived on board. He evaluated the whole team solely on the basis of merit and never made a distinction between men and women. Now I felt both empowered and motivated to give my best at work. Indeed, promotions, recognition and responsibilities quickly followed.

Marta Garcia

I will never forget this experience because it changed my mindset. It made me realize that all I wanted was to work on an equal footing with my male colleagues, not to be treated differently based on physical traits.

And this leader had shown me that it was a possible and powerful approach.

Yet what do I see when I look at the big picture? Think about these three business leaders, for example, and what they have in common: Mary Barra, Emma Walmsley, and Whitney Wolfe-Herd. They are successful business leaders – at General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline and Bumble respectively. They stand out as leaders by their resilience, determination and inspiration. And, yes, they are all women.

However, they are also part of a disproportionate group of female entrepreneurs in listed companies. While efforts have been made on many fronts to increase the presence of women in leadership positions in large companies, progress is slow. In the United States, women made up 21% in January 2020, up from 17% five years earlier, according to McKinsey, the consultancy. In the EU’s largest listed companies in 2020, 19.3% of executives and 7.9% of CEOs were women, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit group.

Additionally, women leaders tend to occupy roles in support and HR functions. Men dominate sales and operations, which are the most traditional stepping stones to leadership and general management positions.

Essay: the judges

This article is an edited version of the winning entry in the FT’s Ninth Annual Essay Competition, held with the 30% Club and Henley Business School, to earn a free Executive MBA spot. The long essay question was: “The number of women on corporate boards of directors remains well below 50% overall, and few make it to CEOs. How can organizations, policy makers and individuals encourage greater participation of women at the top? “

The judges were: Fiona Hathorn, Women on Boards; Anne Morriss, The Leadership Consortium and co-author of unleashed; Sharon Sands, Heidrick & Struggles; Edwin Smelt, Egon Zehnder; Claire Collins, Henley Business School; Pavita Cooper, 30% Club; Matthew Vincent and Harriet Arnold, FT Project Publishing

Too often I see articles advocating qualities associated with women – such as empathy, teamwork, and multitasking – that they say would make them better leaders than men. But articles like this perpetuate a culture of differentiation. We need more managers to think less about whether employees are men or women, and see them as just people.

Could success in achieving change come, as I do, from empowering individuals in an environment that aims to eliminate gender comparisons – even if it happens gradually?

Gender traits are largely cultural and learned – and they create stereotypes. Eliminate these stereotypes and women may no longer have to prove their worth in roles that were designed to be well suited to “masculine” traits.

How can organizations, policy makers and individuals help achieve this goal?

Organizations:
As an entrepreneur in the tech industry, I believe in leading by example, choosing talent over gender expectations, recognizing performance and ensuring that opportunities are offered on the basis of merit.

More generally, I have found that when organizations showcase women’s accomplishments, the value they bring to our workplaces and our communities becomes more visible. Fostering a culture of support and confidence in women’s abilities encourages their self-confidence in management and leadership roles throughout the company, which ultimately leads to more managerial positions. students.

Policy development:
Policymakers can and should do more to ensure that men and women enjoy the same benefits, access to promotions and that recruitment processes are transparent. For example, greater and better access to equal parental leave would reduce assumptions that women’s careers will be disproportionately disrupted by parenthood.

People:
As individuals, we have great power to effect change, promoting equality at work, at home and in the education of the next generation. Women still take on most of the household chores and childcare responsibilities, for example. Dubbed “the double shift,” this increased during the pandemic, according to McKinsey. Yet correcting the imbalance here would reduce the additional exhaustion reported by women.

If we as a society tackle gender bias as early as possible and instead focus on individual interests, skills and aspirations, we will empower the next generation to have broader choices about their own. to come up. For women, this could ultimately end the so-called female leadership paradox, in which they demonstrate leadership qualities while remaining unselected for the highest positions. Women would no longer need to conform to gender roles derived from outdated leadership models.

The pandemic is causing big changes in the workplace, so why not incorporate the above? This prospect gives me hope that my young daughter can thrive on an equal footing with any other candidate for promotions. Success for women means success for humanity: it leads to greater equality and enables the best people for the job to drive growth and success.

True equality of opportunities and results will be achieved when we no longer feel that we have to cite percentages of men or women in certain roles and positions, because we are certain that gender is not a discriminating factor. .

The writer is an entrepreneur

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