We’ve reached The Moment – the one in which Corporate America, with its hierarchies, corner offices and cubes, is disrupted, disassembled, and reconstructed. This realm was built by and for men in an era when most women worked in the home, and it’s clearly broken. I experienced this firsthand as a corporate litigator; I worked more than 80 hours a week in an environment designed for men – from an inflexible schedule and large pay gap to the temperature chosen for the office space (yes, it’s set for men). As I became a mother, the pressure increased as I juggled childcare for my children and the demands of my caseload.
And I’m not alone in this experience. Today, nearly two-thirds of American mothers are breadwinners. Yet almost half of “highly-trained,” talented mothers offramp at some point after they have children, frustrated by a system where men still make the rules and dictate every major decision.
The future of work in America – for men, women and those who are gender-fluid – is transforming, and I’m part of that change. I believe that when you aren’t given a seat at the table, you must build your own table. (That’s what I’m doing with The Riveter, creating communities and coworking spaces that show what work would look like if women led the way.) We all have a role in bringing true equity to corporate America. Here are 5 crucial steps every one of us needs to take to create – finally – a fair future for all.
Welcome Multitudes of Women into Leadership
Only 24 CEOs leading America’s Fortune 500 are women. In fact, there are more men named “John” in America with the title CEO than there are women in total. But to change the face of leadership, we must also challenge old assumptions – especially the archaic belief there can only be one woman in any given role. We cannot have just one woman as a CEO in a given industry. We cannot have just one woman on a corporate board. We cannot have just one woman on the ballot. We need multitudes.
A woman must earn a man’s dollar, not the 78 cents white women earn or the 64 cents black women make. One way to close the pay gap is to make information about wages more readily available to women so we know when we’re being paid less. Let’s make a public database that shows how much employers pay by type of work, segmented by race, sex, and ethnicity. The U.S. Congress should also pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which prevents employers from retaliating against employees who share information about their wages. Transparency about pay will lead to progress.
Take on the Childcare Challenge
During World War II, American women made up 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce, compared to just 1 percent before the war. This shift was enabled by the U.S. government building a heavily-subsidized childcare program. But then Congress eliminated the benefit after the war, creating a huge barrier for women in the workplace. We need to bring subsidized childcare back. We need everyone to demand it.
Know Your Bias
Every workplace should mandate training in unconscious bias and its implications. We need to rethink how we evaluate and grow our teams and talent. Women are 15 percent less likely than men to be promoted – and a mother is half as likely to be promoted as a childless woman. It’s not about performance but about opportunity. Men, how do you feel about your wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters facing this bias?
Ignite a Conversation
All too often, women speak exclusively with other women about gender-parity issues in the workplace. Men need to engage directly with women on these topics. People of color, who are often not in the conversation, must be heard. We cannot change what we do not know or understand, so it’s vital for all genders and ethnicities to gather, share, and listen.
We’re in a tense moment, no doubt. But the path to a place where we can work together and thrive is clear. And it’s waiting just ahead of us.
Amy Nelson, The Riveter Founder & CEO will be speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 18. To learn more about Amy Nelson’s talk, visit the Cannes Lions website. This article is a part of “The Future of Masculinity,” a publication created by Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. To download the full publication, visit Faith Popcorn’s website.