Is It OK for a Bunch of Men to Lead a “Women in the Workforce” Initiative?

President Trump has just appointed two men to head up his women in the workplace initiative. The reactions are predictable: How can men appropriately represent women?

But that is the typical misframing of the gender issue. Gender equality is not a “women’s issue” — it’s a huge political, economic, and social opportunity. It is a massive business issue that more than 75% of corporate CEOs currently put on their agenda of top 10 issues.

Research shows that gender balance happens in companies only if it is personally and forcefully led by the CEO. The reality is that many of the companies starting to look truly balanced are or were led by men. Successful gender balancing requires convincing the majority of your employees that it’s a good idea. Smart CEOs of male-dominated companies know that the real push on gender balance (especially in leadership) is getting leaders, most of whom are male, to own the accountability for balancing. And they know that the best person to convince them of this isn’t a woman. It’s one of their own.

So getting men to lead the charge is a smart choice, as more and more organizations are recognizing. But how can you tell whether a CEO is a good leader on gender? It’s pretty easy: See who’s on the company’s executive team. How many women are there? Are they in strategic roles, or staff functions?

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