Newspaper article International New York Times

Women Can't Fix Job Bias Problem Alone

Newspaper article International New York Times

Women Can't Fix Job Bias Problem Alone

Article excerpt

Some leaders have moved past women-only conferences aimed at improving the status of women in business and are now engaging men in the effort.

I'll never forget how exciting it was to attend my first women's conference. The convention center was pulsing with estrogen, and it was exhilarating to be a part of a like-minded sisterhood. Sprinting from workshops to motivational keynotes featuring famous faces and wannabes, I came away inspired and armed with information so that I too could succeed in business while being female. I was woman, hear me roar!

But that was 25 years ago. Lately, I've been hearing professional women sing a different tune, questioning the purpose of women-only conferences, corporate workshops and networking soirees. As someone who has led professional development workshops, including women- only gatherings, naturally my ears perk up. Some tell me these single-sex events are outmoded -- so last century -- and should be done away with because they mirror the exclusionary behavior that made victims of us.

Not only that, but how helpful is it to talk mostly to one another instead of to the men who hold the power and who must be a key part of the solution? Citing sobering statistics as proof, naysayers argue that women gathering to help one another in business may have gotten them in the door but has done little to advance them. In fact, while the first woman was named chief executive of a Fortune 500 company 44 years ago, today only 22 women hold that distinction.

A few years ago, Belinda Parmar, head of the tech consulting firm Lady Geek, stopped speaking in front of exclusively female audiences after she experienced a mass exodus of men before one of her talks because it was perceived as being for women only. Explaining her decision, Ms. Parmar wrote, "I have no problem with events that focus on women, but I'm done with women-only events that don't engage men," saying that they "alienate the very people we need to be speaking to." She added: "Sidelining men while trying to improve the status of women is wrongheaded. This is not a 'women's problem,' it's a 'society problem."'

When we view the issue through this broader lens, getting men involved is a no-brainer. It is absolutely critical to our success. Just look at what happened after Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, conducted a gender pay audit at his company. As a result of the discrepancies he found, he spent millions righting the company's monetary wrongs and prompted several other industry titans to examine their own payrolls.

Or how about the actor Bradley Cooper propelling the pay equity issue into the cultural stratosphere when he announced he would fight wage discrimination by sharing information about what he was making on a film with female co-stars before they signed their deals. …

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