CAREER

Power of the Pack: How Women Can Make Change in the Workplace

Women make up almost half of the global population—but only 4 percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women. In fact, there are more men named John running major companies than there are women in the same ranks!

Our Women in The Workplace: The Power of the Pack panel explored how to bridge the gender and diversity gaps faster. NYWICI president Judith Harrison moderated the conversation between Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and creator of Girls Lounge, and Meredith Kopit Levien, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the New York Times Company. Missed the event? Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion, and you can catch up on the whole discussion in Episode 25 of our podcast, Coffee Break w/ NYWICI!

‘Together, we have impact’

Zalis believes we’re now going backwards when it comes to the progress women have made in the past decades. According to research, women will achieve workforce equality in 217 years—and it will take over 100 years to reach equality in the C-Suite. Ugh.

“We have been admiring the problems and we haven’t been creating solutions for change,” Zalis said. “The gap won’t just close by itself. We can’t just wait.” In order to make real progress, she believes we all need to rise to the occasion and act with accountability. That’s where the power of the pack comes in.

Money talks

Pay gaps widen when women don’t know their colleagues’ salaries or have to disclose salary history to a potential employer, Zalis says. She believes in passing laws that allow more transparency on anonymous company salary history. “Not sharing salaries allows us not to know and not to compare,” Zalis said. “The pay gap is invisible. We need to blow it up so no one can hide from it.”

In the meantime, what do you do if a potential employer asks for your salary history? Levien’s recommended line: “Just say: ‘Compensation is a metaphor for value.’ Then pause and say, ‘I’ll leave that to you.’”

Impact of the #MeToo movement

The #MeToo movement changed a lot of things in the workplace, according to Zalis. One of those changes: Men are now paranoid about sponsoring or even being in the same room with a woman. She mentioned a survey done for Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg which found that 50 percent of men today don’t want to work with women because they’re afraid to do or say the wrong thing. “We need to start reversing this trend,” Zalis said.

She also thinks we should be bringing men into our conversations, so we can help them understand the issue and let them be part of positive solutions for change. “He might need an education first before we say, ‘He sexually harassed me,” she said. “It’s not textbook stuff, it’s perception and reality and acknowledging people’s feelings.”

Making change happen

There are simple ways decision-makers and leaders can help their company achieve workplace equality. “The best thing we can do is to hire a woman or a person of color,” Levien said. “It doesn’t change until the table changes. If you don’t have women and people of color in hiring positions, people are going to come to the company and look around and think ‘This place is not for me.’”

Zalis added that leadership is about taking action—not about age, title, or levels. “If we each take responsibility for change and we hold ourselves accountable, then I think we can actually make a big difference much faster and go a lot further, especially when we’re together.”
-Maylan L. Studart

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