The only woman in the room
I used to pride myself on being the only woman in a room full of men. I’ve been the only woman on the team, the only woman in the leadership group, the only woman in the class….and so many more scenarios.
Not long ago I attended the wedding of some friends and on my way to sign the guest book I had to navigate my way through a group of guys talking about software. I politely said hello added a comment or two and moved across the room to my destination.
It was not an unusual situation for me. While in this scenario being the only woman was merely about being a few metres away from the rest of the crowd, it was pointed out that my need to traverse a large group of men as a solo woman was a bit of a metaphor for my entire career.
No better than another
I’ve responded to things like “sweetheart” and “honey”, learned that being called a bitch for being as tough as my male colleagues was as common as getting out of bed. I’ve even prided myself on a thick skin that was able to offer me a shield (publicly at least) from the comments and actions of those using a different restroom than I did.
At one point early on I can recall boasting about my success and survival in a land of men to someone. I had run the gauntlet and while others before me had failed, I was successful. I was better than those who weren’t as tough as me. I took it to mean that I was worth more than the other women. I took it as the definition that I was as good as the men.
Gawd! I was so wrong.
I wasn’t as good as the men. I wasn’t better than any other woman.
I was a human being who worked really hard, harder than my peers in many instances even though I shouldn’t have had to. I’m not saying that I didn’t work my ass off to get every scrap that came my way and would never advocate for the shorter route, but on many occasions I was more qualified and considerably less compensated than my peers merely because I was a woman. This fact is just as wrong as I was in those times.
I was walking on a trail forged by hundreds of women who had come before me and I just happened to break through a glass ceiling that they had bashed their bodies against so that I could be successful.
Even more painful is the fact that after all of this work I was likely only to receive about 70% of the pay of my male counterparts. I spent years acting like the younger sibling who was just excited just to be let in the room
This is why I advocate for diverse work forces. Not because I want more women in my industry, I want more TALENT and I want it from whatever source is available. With some basic math in my favour that means that more women, more races, and more gender neutral HUMANS need to get involved in technology and business leadership roles. Consider all this in light of the fact that we have a disparate bias towards an industry full of people that look decidedly similar. That is not the future I want to be a part of.
Women are approximately half of the population, but we represent a small portion of senior leaders in any organisation.
Why does this matter?
Studies show that women leaders represent higher profits, but despite that in places like Australia women only make up 15.4% of CEO roles. Even more troubling than that statistic is the scary fact that women add up to barely more than a quarter of senior management roles despite being almost 46% of the workforce.
The gaps get larger as we age which means that to make real changes tomorrow we have to recruit and promote talented individuals from interns to executives and things like name blind recruiting (resumes without any name references), could be the way forward.
Creating new results
As I said earlier, this is a math equation. In order to change the ratios, we need new variables and methods of problem solving. Complex mathematics would serve to teach us that by changing the variables at each step of the equation we are able to get new results and insights.
When planning anything from a wedding to a dinner party we work to balance the landscape with people who have different perspectives and outlooks. This helps to create lively dialogue and develops new relationships amongst our guests. We should be planning our organisations with the same care as we would a seating chart that only needs to live for three hours, but we never seem to do that.
It’s time to change the story for how many women we have in the rooms we work in. To do that we need to start making sure they have been invited in the first place.
Join me in creating thoughtful planning and recruiting strategies, because while I enjoy having no queue to use the toilet I don’t feel that it’s enough of a reason not to hire more women.
Then again if we just moved towards unisex toilets we could all feel comfortable but that is a different post.
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