Dear Ask AFETT:
I am currently in charge of a department which consists of a disproportionate number of men and women in very key leadership positions. This, however, has affected many critical decisions of the company. I see the need for greater equality and representation between the men and women within the organisation but I am not sure of how to communicate this to my superiors. Can you give some advice?
Dear Gender Conscious,
Your question could not come at a better time. As the world commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women; and heralds 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence which started on the November 25, 2018 and ends on December 10 (Human Rights Day), this question allows us to converse on the issues aligned to the effects of this discrimination.
Coming so soon on the heels of International Men’s Day on November 19, it is our aim at AFETT to continue the dialogue that would allow us to foster a society of great women supported by great men.
In your particular situation, however, it would be key to remind your superiors that the best performing companies are those that are open to a diverse and balanced work environment; one that actively supports and promotes gender equality in strategic areas of operation.
It is our belief that the priority of any industry should be to build organisations of which both women and men want to be a part. Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, sums up the essence of gender equality in one simple sentence: “Men and women are equal, not identical”. Often times, companies fail to make this distinction when assembling teams and even when promoting. But diversity in opinions and ways of thinking are both essential elements to the success of any business venture. Furthermore, great leaders are the ones who know and use gender differences to foster growth.
Perhaps you can encourage your superiors to implement promotion and incentive schemes based on skills and strengths aligned to individuality and not necessarily based on the perceived notion that both men and women are exactly the same.
This does not say that one group should be compensated more than the other, but rather that both groups should have fair representation within the company.
According to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Report, while more women than men are enrolling at university in 97 countries, women only make up the majority of skilled workers in 68 countries and the majority of leaders in only four.
This is a clear indicator that not only is your company’s philosophy not unique, but that the world still has a very long way to go.
The 2011 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales by 16 per cent and return on invested capital by 26 per cent.
With these statistics, one has to wonder why more women are not represented on boards in Trinidad and Tobago and why you are able to clearly outline inequalities in your workplace.
I venture that the time has come for a cultural paradigm shift, for more women to have a seat at the corporate table and to be so invited on equal footing as their male counterparts. Instances of #MeToo should not become a prominent part of our culture but rather taboo.
For us to succeed as a country, we need to demand greater inclusion and respect for the women therein only then can we begin to "galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world".
Frederick Douglass said, "If there is no struggle, then there is no progress". So join us in actions that will effect change. Though incremental, they will undoubtedly add up cumulatively and result in progress for our men and boys, and our society at large.
AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today's response was written by Yolande Agard-Simmons, president of AFETT and creative director of the Image Architect. Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at 343-2160. Email us your career-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, meant strictly as advice and guidance, based upon their experience and expertise. In no way are they meant to be legally binding upon AFETT and or its members, servants nor agents.