2016, Year in Review: How to Move Forward From Here For Gender Parity at Work and Fairness in Society

To review 2016 in context of women at work and the progress being made for professional women has been like a textbook case study for me as an organizational psychologist who works in diversity. I hope I can share with you how we can go forward and change the way we do this work. It is obvious that there is work to do and yet I am so incredibly anxious of the capacity of most people to ensure this moment is a launching pad for real progress and not the moment that we spiral down and turn the clock back thirty to hundred years. It truly could go either way. Progress is everyone’s responsibility to take and accountability has to be there- change starts here.

Recap the past ten years (see here for 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 Year End reviews for a macro, multi-year view) to see how things aren’t changing over a fair time period. In one sentence, progress for women’s equality at work, based on promotional and pay parity for same work done and all things being equal, is just not there. This year, hasn’t seen much progress either and the fact is at board level there are no more women in board seats than there were ten years ago, unless mandated by quotas seen with an increase in countries that have a mandate in place (i.e. not USA). Senior management figure changes aren’t all that either and most women (and men) will tell you that they are working harder than ever.

A striking research piece of evidence is seen here in the 2016 PWC’s Annual Corporate Directors Report which includes responses from 884 public company directors, 83% of whom are male and 17% of whom are female. Overall, the findings state that 97% of respondents who think female board representation should be between zero and twenty percent were male board members. Worth noting, 3% of those who think that are female board members themselves. Then, the survey shows about a quarter of respondents said they believe there are a significant number of qualified diverse candidates out there with 93% of female directors saying that they at least “somewhat” believe that there plenty of qualified non-male, non-white candidates out there. “Somewhat” is not exactly resoundingly confident is it? And that implies that everyone thinks that there is an abundance of male candidates that are entirely ready for a board because somebody sits in these seats. I hate to tell you folks but we are all still holding up this blind spot of perceiving men to be more ready for leadership by virtue of being a man only.

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