Promoting Women in Management Roles

Panelists included Nancy Douyon from Uber, Ariel Cohen from TripActions, Chris Louie from LinkedIn, and Keri Gohman from Xero

Last week, our team was honored to attend Seat @ the Table, a forum put on by Costanoa Ventures for both women and men to come together to talk about what actions we can take so more women earn more seats at every level of management. We knew that women are underrepresented and face discrimination in the workplace, especially as you look into management and executive roles, but we didn’t know how shocking the statistics were. LeanIn’s Annual Women in the Workplace Report found that when hiring managers were given two versions of the same resume — one with a man’s name and one with a woman’s — the manager was 60% more likely to hire the man. Another study shows that women get hired based on prior accomplishments, whereas men are hired based on potential. Yet, teams with more women get more work done, have more diverse ideas and achieve greater innovation than those with mostly men.

As a team of mostly women (75%), we were shocked by the data, but we feel emboldened knowing that we are breaking the norms. (Although, we admit there are still things we can be doing better.) Here are some of the things we learned at Seat at the Table, along with some actions we can all take to lead the way toward a more equitable workplace.

Rachel Thomas, Co-Founder and President of LeanIn.org

More of the facts (Brace yourself!)

Inequality starts from the ground level. Even though more women earn degrees than men do, more men get hired into entry-level positions. Women make up around 45% of entry-level positions, and as you look higher into an organization, that number gets smaller and smaller. For every 100 men promoted to management positions, only 79 women are. When you take a look at the c-suite, only 20% of executives are female. (Thank you to Rachel Thomas, Co-Founder and President of LeanIn.org, for presenting all of these statistics.) There are likely many factors that contribute to these statistics — all the way from hiring practices to employee training and the values upheld by company leadership.

What we can do

We got to listen to a stellar panel discussion between leaders who are moving the needle toward a more equitable workplace, including Nancy Douyon from Uber, Ariel Cohen from TripActions, Chris Louie from LinkedIn, and Keri Gohman from Xero. They talked about how much of gender bias is implicit, so it can be difficult to address. We may have the best intentions, but the issue still exists, which means we need to be even more conscious of how and when our biases come out so we can take action against them. The best thing to do is to acknowledge the issue and take concrete steps to fix it. During the conversations throughout the evening, it became very clear that in order to effectively fight bias in the workplace, company leadership has to take initiative. Here are some powerful actions that managers and executives can take to fight gender bias in the workplace:

  • Learn to recognize when biased conversations come up and promote an unbiased perspective. For instance, someone suggests that a female coworker lead a big project, but another coworker rejects the idea because she just had a baby. The unbiased thing to do would be to recognize what’s best for the business. Perhaps the new mother would be the best person for the role and would be excited to take the opportunity.
  • Engage the hiring team to make the hiring process more equitable. For example, Chris Louie encourages his hiring managers at LinkedIn to hire based on business objectives and values.
  • Encourage female employees to step into new roles/responsibilities when they show promise.
  • Recognize when microaggressions happen, such as interrupting, speaking over, or taking another’s idea, and intervene.

We have an opportunity to promote talented women, increase team connectedness, improve communication in the workplace, and improve the bottom line. Seat @ the Table gave us the knowledge and know-how to fight gender bias in the workplace. The more you know, the more you can do to make positive change for yourself and others, so let’s take actions to be a model for others and show how truly great the workplace can be with more women at the table.

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