For the past five years, I have been the CEO of an answering services company. During that time, I’ve experienced a lot of growth, and with that, the need to promote a lot of people to leadership positions. The first promotion I had to make was for Vice President of Operations, and I chose to promote a woman to that role.
This decision was made not just because I understand that women need the opportunities now, more than ever, in order to grow professionally and demand an equal claim to men in the workplace. But this person genuinely deserved the position. She is hardworking, intelligent and always one step ahead of the problem she saw coming in the first place. I tell you this not to brag, but to make pertinent a few of my opinions regarding female leadership in the workplace and how we can ensure that the future really is equal.
I recently read a column about Sallie Krawcheck’s Own It: The Power of Women at Work, and something really struck me: “To empower women, power must be given to them.” It’s not enough to just say, “Give women more leadership roles,” or “Let’s bridge the wage gap.” More leadership and senior roles need to be given to qualified women in order to actually empower them.
According to a study conducted by Columbia University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, both male and female hiring managers were two times more likely to choose male candidates for mathematics and science careers over female candidates when all applicants had equal skills. Further, when an applicant who performed worse on a test was chosen over an applicant that performed better, two-thirds of the time the chosen candidate was a man.
According to Harvard Business Review, this is due to unconscious bias. Iris Bohnet, director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, said: “Seeing is believing. If we don’t see male kindergarten teachers or female engineers we don’t naturally associate women and men with those jobs, and we apply different standards.”
So, how can we remedy this issue when it comes to hiring, promoting and the like? Here are a few things recommended in that same article:
• Be aware of hiring prejudices and how they occur.
• Better educate and train managers on unconscious biases.
• Test future job performance via work sample tests.
• Simplify and standardize the hiring process.
To help simplify and standardize the hiring process, I propose companies do the following:
• Use standard questions in your interviews.
• Try to be conscious of the candidate’s “likability.” Someone you may feel a connection to may not be the most qualified person for the job.
• Go into blind interviews. Not knowing the identity of the person you are about to interview can keep you barred off from preconceived judgments on race, gender or any other bias you may have.
Here’s what these changes can lead to:
A Trend In Actual Female Empowerment
Instead of being all talk, actually giving women leadership positions will start a snowball effect that will lead to more women being promoted to senior roles. I’m not saying to promote a lesser candidate just because she’s a woman, but give the women who deserve these positions a legitimate chance — maybe they’ve never been given a real chance before. That is the difference between what we’ve been doing and what we’re now doing. We need to actually consider women for these jobs.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor:
With hard work, diligence, intelligence and education come rewards of seniority within businesses and organizations. By giving executive-level jobs to women who deserve them, we are showing younger women and working women that this idea of success is possible. And when we know that something is actually possible, we can start planning a course of action to achieve our dreams.
It’s one thing to be aligned with the movement of empowering women, but it’s another to really implement these things in your everyday life. I’m talking to all business owners and managers out there. Are you considering all qualified candidates regardless of gender for positions that need filling? We all need to start practicing a lot more of what we preach. I don’t claim to be the perfect leader, nor would I give a job to an undeserving candidate, regardless of gender. But we do need to be conscious of our intentions and motivations when it comes to these types of issues in our everyday lives and in our work lives.