Fixing the glass ceiling isn’t about accommodating women. It’s about engaging the workforce.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to the glass ceiling. I’ve encountered opinions that vary from “you go girl!” to “pick a new battle… that one’s been won” to “we’ve given you equality and now you want favour?” What I find interesting is the view that the gender diversity issue is something that caters to women at the expense of men. People have said that when parents choose to have children, they shouldn’t expect the government or their companies to have to look after them.
While I agree with that last statement, that viewpoint tells me that people still have an antiquated and limited view of what it means to have women in the workforce. It tells me that some people are still living in the past and haven’t adjusted their thinking to the new realities of the world we live in today.
Consider today’s world. Statistics tell us that four in ten mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners for their families in the US and in Canada, eight out of ten single-parent families are headed by women and one in four families have women as the primary breadwinner.
What these statistics tell us is that we need to view women in the workforce as an economic factor rather than just one of equal rights. But attitudes are slow to change and stereotypes are well entrenched in the world we live in.
Slow moving and behind-the-times thinking organizations still believe that fighting for more women in the senior leadership ranks is about accommodating women and children and giving them additional considerations that they don’t really deserve and that men don’t have. What it’s really about is driving out discriminatory policies, practices and paradigms. It’s about treating people like people and parents like contributing members of society. It’s about engaging the total workforce by treating them as an asset instead of a commodity.
The days of company-first-everything-else-last are dwindling. Yes, there are many companies that still have this mindset solidly in place. But these days will come to an end soon enough.
The percentage of people in each generation in Canada shows us that Baby Boomers in Canada make up almost 30% of our population, and almost as many people were born in the generation between 1972 and 1992. The numbers are similar in the US. This younger generation is roughly between 20 and 40 years of age. These are the people who are having babies and raising families right now, and if you think they want to raise their children in the same sacrifice-all environment that their parents and grandparents lived in, then you’re mistaken.
Attitude of fathers have changed right along with the attitudes of mothers. Companies that want to engage the younger generation have to come to grips with the fact that the workers they are trying to attract have very different attitudes about the value of families and while they’re working for these companies today, they’ll be running these companies tomorrow.
This whole situation reminds me of the story of Moses leading his people to the promised land. They wandered around in the desert for 40 years not because they were lost, but because it took that long for the old attitudes and the old generation to die off. But I digress.
The benefits of having a cultural/generational/gender-diverse workforce are many, and what’s good for families is good for business. Proof is abundant that having more women in the senior ranks of an organization is good for the bottom line. Companies that work to eliminate discrimination against any group of employees will go a long way in engaging the total workforce and creating an employer-of-choice environment.
The glass ceiling still exists and there is plenty of proof for non-believers. Part of any prudent organizational strategy is to eliminate any gender-bias that may exist.
I’m doing my part to keep the conversation going with my latest writing project, The Ruby Report: How Organizations Can Profit By Promoting Women Leaders. In this book I address the three critical initiatives that companies MUST have in place if they wish to profit from a gender-diverse leadership team. These initiatives, plus other key factors, are the result of recent research I did with FP100 companies. April 1, 2014 is the official release of the book that reveals what companies need to know about women, and what women need to know about companies.
Gender diversity initiatives and other prudent business strategies, collectively known as Gender Intelligence, is not about accommodating the women, but rather it’s about engaging the total workforce. For those who wish to maximize their profits in the coming years, it’s time to join the conversation if you haven’t already.
NOTE: Contact Dawn if you’d like her to speak at your organization.