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Forum poll: Members cite obstacles to gender equality

Friday, July 26, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Men, women and companies must all change before businesses can advance more women leaders and achieve greater gender equality, according to attendees voting at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum, July 24 at the Terranea Resort outside Los Angeles.

Using their mobile devices to vote, more than 200 senior executives, mostly women, examined barriers to women’s advancement in the retail and consumer goods industry.

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Only 13 percent thought "having women ‘lean in’ more’” would create change. The vast majority of the audience — 40 percent — said "changing the corporate culture” was the most important change needed to advance women’s leadership, while nearly as many — 37 percent — said "increasing sponsorship of women." Ten percent of respondents said "work/life flexibility" is the most needed change.

"I believe we should focus on what we can influence,” said Vicki Felker, vice president of pet specialty, customer development group, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company. Felker moderated the town hall, which examined the ways women can be "bold and authentic” at work.

The majority (58 percent) of the senior leaders defined "bringing my authentic self to work” as "being honest about my personal life and career aspirations.” Nearly one-third said it means "living my values at work,” while one in 10 said it means "working in an organization that shares my values.”

”Authenticity is a practice, not a state of being,” Felker told the crowd. "There aren't two groups of people – the authentic and the inauthentic. Authenticity is a choice – a strategic one.”

Two-thirds of attendees said they bring their authentic selves to work "most of the time.” Twenty-three percent said "always,” 12 percent said "selectively” and just one person said "rarely or never.”

The most often cited reason for those who do not always bringing their authentic selves to work was "it goes against the corporate culture” (34 percent). One-fourth cited "the fear of not being accepted” and another quarter said they choose not to be authentic at work because they "desire to keep their personal self private.” Fifteen percent said they "fear appearing weak.”

Asked if "being authentic” was rewarded inside their organizations, 60 percent of town Hall participants said "it can be risky, but pays off in the end;” 28 percent said it was "safe” to be authentic at work, more than one in 10 said being authentic "was not worth it."

Vicki Felker

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