Last month Cable celebrated 35 years as a women’s leadership organization and with that celebration we were reminded of the reason the organization was formed and remains relevant today. The struggle for equality has provided the backdrop for on-going efforts by women all over the world from the famous and powerful to those who, unnoticed, contributed mightily to create options, opportunities and substantial change for the roles women play. With so much progress made to gain equality, why is it still illusive?
The reason the gap stubbornly persists is as much a result of traditional women’s careers not being sought by men (lack of pay) as it is a lack of work-family policies that promote gender equality. The fact that women have moved in large numbers into male-dominated fields along with a rejection of traditional gender roles belies the notion that women aren’t ready, willing and able to step up to any role they choose.
Although the focus on gender bias has had a positive effect in terms of eliminating obvious deliberate exclusion, ready, willing and able doesn’t guarantee a woman will be recognized for the skills and talents she brings to the table. What has replaced deliberate exclusion is called the second-generation gender bias. This occurs when powerful but subtle and often invisible barriers arise from cultural assumptions and organizational structures and practices of interaction that inadvertently benefit men.
We find this in the dearth of role models for aspiring women leaders, gendered career paths where work is structured or designed to fit the traditional man’s lifestyle, women’s lack of access to networks and sponsors and double standards for measuring competencies for women versus men (successful men are assertive, decisive and independent, successful women are nice, caretaking and unselfish).
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Longfellow
Donna Yurdin, SPHR is President of Credo Management Consulting and is a consultant specializing in Diversity and Inclusion.