Some of you may be surprised I haven’t sent a Thoughtful Thursday out about gender inequality in the workplace. I’ve discussed it with many of you from time to time and it’s something I’m very passionate about.

This past week, disgusting stories have come out about Harvey Weinstein and his deplorable sexual assault acts used against women in an effort for them to get into big roles for their career. It’s the extreme case of what many women know to be true – that women are harassed, assaulted and treated very differently, due to their gender, in the workplace.
I personally have a few “little” stories of sexist comments made to me throughout my career, but they don’t even come close to what I’ve read from other women.  Mary Keene-Dawson, a very well respected digital marketing consultant in London, states in this article that she’s experienced “men pulling their cocks out in meetings in an attempt to intimidate me during a tough negotiation.” This behavior is beyond appalling and Rolling Stone is correlating the insane amount of stories now coming out to the Weinstein scandal, stating that: this is not a personal problem, it’s a systemic problem and the Weinstein scandal may be the final straw that broke the camel’s back to make bigger changes to the system.
I hope they’re right.
Years ago in my Expedia days, Dara made a BHAG (big harry audacious goal) that Expedia would have women in 20% of the leadership roles by 2020 or he wouldn’t get his bonus. Although I have no quantifiable data about the response of employees, I do know anecdotally that many women appreciated the gesture, but felt like that goal fell short. I remember saying “he probably won’t even be around by then anyway,” which ended up being the case.
But now we’re seeing real change, as shown in this article about the CEO of Oath. He wants women in 50% of leadership roles, which makes sense, since women earn almost 60% of undergraduate degrees & 60% of master‘s degrees and they make up 49% of the college-educated workforce. Tim Armstrong, the Oath CEO, references Gloria Steinem as his inspiration for his initiative. Gloria advised him “companies perform better when there’s men and women so don’t think about women-only, think about how to combine that.” Both genders bring value to the table, so having equality of genders in leadership positions is where companies will find the most benefit, as shown in this McKinsey study.
There are two main sociological problems in accomplishing this goal, according to Sheryl Sandberg.
  • One is that “Data show that for men, professional success is correlated with being liked, while successful women are treated with increased disdain.” Think about that. As women grow more successful, people like them less. As men grow more successful, people like them more. No wonder women have a hard time getting into senior leadership teams or running companies.
  • The other problem she states is that “women are seen in a positive light when they advocate for others, but the opposite holds true when they promote themselves.”
So really in order for women to get more successful, they need other people to advocate for them and then when they become more successful, people will like them less. That’s pretty fucked, but thankfully at least one part of that problem is being solved by people like Gloria Steinem, Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Armstrong. Hopefully with the sharing of information, all of us can do our part to be more conscious about our responses to sexist things we observe in the future. And maybe even by sharing information we will start to see real change in the leadership mix of more companies soon.

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