Climbing up the corporate ladder has never been an easy task. Hours of grueling work, numerous personal life sacrifices, rejections, and failures are part and parcel of this process. But for some people, it is almost as if the odds have been stacked against them before they can even attempt to climb up the ladder. Ever since the 1960s, when women started stepping foot into the labor force in record numbers, they have faced numerous hurdles. One of the most prominent problems is the early-career gender gap.
As of June 2021, just 8.1%, or 41 women to be precise, are currently Fortune 500 CEOs. This is primarily because, as reports show, women are promoted to managers at far lower rates than men, making it nearly impossible for them to reach senior levels. No matter how many leaps are taken toward reducing diversity disparity in business organizations, the early-career gender gap is still prevalent. Here’s how you and your company can contribute towards bridging this gap.
1. Put An End To Double Standards
Studies have found that women are often held to much higher and more stringent performance standards than men, even when they hold the same jobs. Research has also shown that in spite of having the same level of qualifications, managers are less likely to promote women in comparison to men employees. When women showcase efficient leadership skills they are often seen as aggressive or bossy whereas male employees are termed as strong competent leaders. The double standards that women face are often due to unconscious bias. The best way to get rid of this is to organize training programs specifically for managers and HR staff in order to rid them of any bias that might affect their hiring process. Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix, and Goldman Sachs are some of the many companies that actively offer these training programs to their managers.
2. Mentorship, Sponsorship, And Fellowship Programs
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Company, is the perfect example of how companies can spot potential and nurture it into skill. When Barra first joined the company, she was an 18-year-old electrical engineering co-op student. GM saw her potential and sent her to Stanford Business School as part of a fellowship program to earn an MBA, propelling Barra to grow leaps and bounds, holding multiple senior management positions over the years before becoming CEO in 2014. Studies have shown that mentorship and sponsorship are effective tools to promote more women into the C-Suite and that is exactly why companies such as Accenture, Deloitte, Marriott International and Paypal to name a few, offer these programs to improve equality and diversity in the workspace.
3. Women In Management
Having a woman’s presence on the company board or even in a senior management position has a large impact on closing the early career gender gap. Research has shown that women are three times more likely to grow in organizations with at least one female senior leader. It has also been found that women in management positions are more likely to mentor and advocate not just for other women but for people of color as well. Studies have also shown that hiring more female HR Managers also inevitably leads to the hiring of more female managers as it removes unconscious bias from the hiring process.
Last, but perhaps the most important step in confronting the gender gap is to set public goals and hold yourself and the managers in your company responsible to reach them. In an article by Salesforce about women in C-Suite, Shelley Zalis, CEO and Founder of The Female Quotient Founder says, “This inequity is a leadership issue. We need to take steps forward and hold ourselves accountable.”
Women in management provide businesses with key advantages, mainly increased revenue and employee satisfaction. When an organization focuses on creating a diverse environment and closing the early career gender gap by employing women based on their achievements and providing existing employees with opportunities to grow, they reap the rewards. As Melinda Gates once said, “When women and girls are empowered to participate fully in society, everyone benefits.”