At a recent event in Paris, former President Barack Obama was asked about essential leadership skills for the future. He responded that more women should be put into positions of power. “Not to generalize,” he said, “but they seem to have better capacity than men do.”
The term "glass ceiling" refers to the sometimes-invisible barrier to success that many women come up against in their careers. Management consultant Marilyn Loden coined the phrase almost 40 years ago but says it is still as relevant as ever.
"We need to address all of the constraints that are impacting the growth of women-owned start-ups," said Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, the agency responsible for the growth of Irish businesses and international trade. "In 2012, only 7% of the startups we were dealing with were female-led. We decided to try to understand some of the issues that might be impacting this.”
My first job out of college in the late 1980s was at Salomon Brothers, a trading house of cigar-smoking, expletive-spewing strivers. One day, I leaned over a colleague’s desk to work on a spreadsheet, and heard loud laughter from behind me; one of the guys was pretending to perform a sex act on me. Almost every day, I found a Xerox copy of male genitalia on my desk.
We need gender equity now. Those are words often uttered in social justice circles, and recently, across a number of headlines. What does that mean? More broadly, how is gender equity different than gender equality?
Companies are uniquely positioned to drive change around social norms by using their brand credibility, marketing expertise, reach, and access to key influencers, among other assets. Companies can create significant, lasting social change by shifting harmful social norms. But why should companies invest in changing social norms, and what are the practical steps to starting this process?