Do you think that women have the same opportunities as men do for advancement? Before you answer, look around at your workplace. Think of your own experiences. Think of those that your friends have had. Before you answer, ask a male colleague what he thinks. Now you can answer. I’ll bet your answer is different than your male colleagues. That’s what a recent survey showed. But what does it really mean for women in business?
A consulting firm, Bain & Company, surveyed over 1800 business professionals worldwide on gender parity in the workplace. They are going to present their finding at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. They found that 90% of women and 85% of men believe that qualified applicants of either gender have the same shot at landing a junior-level position.
The numbers change dramatically when you move higher in the organization. 81% of men said opportunities to move to middle management are gender neutral. 52% of women thought so. When it got to the executive level, it gets even more different. 66% of men thought promotions to the executive level are equally attainable by both genders yet 30% of women thought so. What’s it all mean?
I first wondered who is right. Then I wondered why the differences are so great as you move up the corporate ladder. I think I know the answer to both questions.
If you ask a man about equality for women at work, he’s going to answer so he thinks he’s open minded. How can he say, “I don’t think women have an equal shot at a promotion” without acknowledging that he has a role in being unfair? I think that’s only part of it.
I think most men don’t realize the subtle differences in opportunities that men and women get in the workplace that can lead to management and senior positions. Women do and that’s why they have such different results. There’s a whole lot of informal relationship building that women miss. This costs them in getting advancements in business. It’s simple. Men hire people they feel comfortable with . That means they have to get to know the people they hire. They’re not getting to know women at work.
First, there’s the time it takes to create business relationships. Do you work late? I’ve seen how business relationships are built after 5 when informal discussions take place on project work. If you’re leaving to pickup a child from day care you’re not going to be there when people have these informal meetings.
If the woman picks up from day care, she’s missing the opportunity to build those relationships. Do more women pick up from day care? Based on my limited experience, I have to report more women in the car pool line than men. Maybe things have changed over the years. With the economy upside down, I’ve seen data that says more men have been laid off than women. It would be interesting to see carpool lines today.