Women’s Corporate Exodus – How Not to Run a Meritocracy

 

different_diversity_Image credit- jazzia : 123RF Stock Photo

(Another) Open Letter to Corporate Leadership:

Do you run a meritocracy? Does your company promote only the best and brightest? Is your hiring process color- and gender-blind?

If you said yes to any of the above, the chances are that your company is none of those things. Why? Because our biases towards hiring white men over women and people of color are documented, unconscious and most prevalent in those who deny they have them.

Don’t get upset, though; this certainly doesn’t mean you’re a sexist or a racist. It just means that you’re human and living in the 21st century. But just because a non-diverse leadership team isn’t your fault, this doesn’t mean it’s not your problem.

Your biases, and the biases of your company’s current leadership may be quickly backing you into a corner when it comes to leadership development for the next wave of leaders who will move the company forward.

But just because a non-diverse leadership team isn’t your fault, this doesn’t mean it’s not your problem.

In a previous post, I described how women are the canaries in the coal mine for corporate leadership development. As women are leaving corporate America to start new businesses at one-and-a-half times the rate of men, these birds are flying out the entrance of your mine, and the millennials (who share similar values) may soon begin to follow them. They’re leaving companies like yours right and left for entrepreneurial endeavors in search of meaningful work and quality of life, and they’re taking their talent with them.

You need to recognize that this isn’t because you’re bad (you’re not necessarily a sexist, remember?) or because they’re going off to have kids (65% of mothers work, as compared to 63% of all men). In fact, the glass ceiling isn’t something that’s being “done to” women anymore; it’s the impact of leadership bias, which generally makes women believe (often correctly) that the only way up is to play a game they can’t win and aren’t particularly interested in to begin with.

So what can you do to combat your own unconscious bias, and the bias of those making hiring decisions?

  • First, accept that bias exists. This isn’t going to toss you into a lawsuit, it’s going to help you seek and find employee practices that reward true talent instead of unconscious bias, which may have you rewarding underperforming men as much as 63% of the time.
  • Third, begin a conversation with your employees (of both sexes). This will help understand what’s important to them and how your leadership culture can evolve to share those values and make your company a place where the truly talented want to climb the ladder.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s simply a sincere effort to counter-act the unconscious tendencies we all have to reinforce our culture’s stereotype of a “good leader.” It can be done. You can do it.

The good news is that, based on what the research says about the number of companies doing a good job at this (barely 20%), if you do a decent job at it, you’ll be a more competitive employer and attract a more talented and resilient workforce.

It can be done. You can do it.

So, my questions is, why wouldn’t you confront your bias to reduce employee turnover, increase employee engagement and establish a true meritocracy?

I’d love you to share your thoughts below.

 

Photo Credit HERE

Executive Coach, women's leadership advocate & founder of InPowerCoaching.com, Dana cracks the code on personal power to help women and men forge their leadership identity & mindset. Follow her at www.InPowerWomen.com, www.InPowerCoaching.com, www.Danatheus.com, and @DanaTheus on Twitter

  • http://www.savvycapitalist.blogspot.com TedCoine

    Dana,

    A truly refreshing look at this problem that so many companies are living right now and so few are overcoming. I especially enjoyed this line:

    “The good news is that, based on what the research says about the number of companies doing a good job at this (barely 20%), if you do a decent job at it, you’ll be a more competitive employer and attract a more talented and resilient workforce.”

    This ethos is baked into the advice I give corporate leaders daily. You just have to worry about your company when it comes to winning the war for talent, not the state of the industry as a whole. And there are sooooo many companies that aren’t even close to getting it right, even doing a little better (for now) is going to set you head and shoulders above all of your competitors. Once there, of course, keep improving – to widen that advantage you’ve opened, and because it’s the right thing to do, both.

    Your rationally-optimistic message is a powerful one that many more leaders need to hear. I couldn’t be prouder to have you in our League of Extraordinary Thinkers. Welcome aboard!

  • RJS

    Dana, wonderful read. I’d like to hear your thoughts on best practices for your third piece of advice relating to changing this bias that “the only way up is to play a game they can’t win and aren’t particularly interested in to begin with”. What values/changes implemented have you seen that best address both the bias and keeping the company competitive?

  • http://www.inpowerwomen.com/about/dana-theus-founder-inpower-women/ Dana Theus

    Wow. That’s a challenging one. The best practices I’ve seen involve the CEO personally championing this conversation, which includes personally challenging (his) leadership team to do the same. As with all things, when the intention is genuine and made a leadership priority, things shift. The actual activities are unique to the culture. When it’s just lipservice and executed to check a box, nothing happens. Guess which one is more prevalent?

  • http://www.inpowerwomen.com/about/dana-theus-founder-inpower-women/ Dana Theus

    Thanks, Ted. And thanks for the conversation today. It’s nice to be in a place where my voice is welcome, even when I’m in a mood to challenge:) In defense of business leaders – as you know, running a profitable company is hard all on it’s own. To run a profitable and purposeful one, you have to truly believe that these things are tied and be willing to take a stand for that principle. I think that lazy leadership is just too easy in our leadership culture today. As we discussed, leaders today are caught in the shift. The smart ones will switch tactics!

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