Are we finally at a tipping point for true gender equality?
Kate Isler’s LinkedIn article, Modernizing the manifesto to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, features the Declaration of Sentiments that came out of the first formal meeting to discuss women’s rights in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848. The Declaration was modeled after the Declaration of Independence and outlined how men were oppressing women in the United States.
When you consider the points in the Declaration, I think we can agree that progress has been made.
Women are now allowed to own land and earn wages, something they should have had in 1776.
Women can vote – in fact, they made up 55 percent of voter turnout in the 2018 midterm elections.
Women have access to a college education, and now outnumber men in number of bachelor’s degrees awarded.
The number of women in elected roles is at an all-time high (though it is nowhere near parity -- yet).
What’s left to do?
As Isler points out, the wage gap between men and women is still 23 percent for white women, and the gap is higher for women of color. Boston leads the way in closing the wage gap, but there are no focused, nationwide efforts to address this complex problem. So while women can earn wages and own land 100 years after they got the vote, it will take them many additional years of work to achieve the same level of compensation as their male counterparts.
Women are also not equally represented in the highest levels of senior leadership, the C-suite, or on boards. Women make or influence 83 percent of all consumer purchases, and their participation and leadership at the highest level is vital to ensure companies stay competitive.
Much has been written about how it will take more than 100 years for women to obtain gender parity. I believe women are at the tipping point, and that change will come exponentially faster from here. This acceleration is being driven by two important societal trends.
The war for talent is real and inescapable. With 10,000 Baby Boomers -- mostly older white men -- retiring from the workforce every day every week for the next five to 10 years, there is a coming vacuum in senior leadership. The educated, talented workers in the pipeline are women, people of color, and millennials.
The new workforce looks different, and winning companies are ready to respond to intersectionality. Generation Z-Plus, according to Brookings, is the first truly minority white generation, at 49.6 percent white. It is 26 percent Latinx, 13.6 percent African-American, and nearly 10 percent Asian or persons of two or more races. In addition, a GLAAD study found that 20 percent of Millennials identify as LGBTQ and growing numbers of young people (adults age 18 and older) are more likely to identify outside of traditional binaries such as “gay/straight” and “man/woman.” In fact, 23 percent of Gen Z identify as gender non-binary. These are the workers that companies are now hiring for internships, and they will be the leaders of the future.
Three As address the question of “What’s next?” in the fight for gender equality.
Awareness - Acknowledge and discuss gender differences in the workplace
Accountability - Have a plan and hold people accountable for progress
Advocacy - Men and women must choose to be visible and vocal advocates
Men still occupy roughly 80 percent of senior leadership roles at US companies. Their engagement in advancing women is necessary and vital. Turning this moment in history into a true tipping point for women requires visible, vocal leadership from corporate America to drive real and sustainable change.
As men, will we simply smile and say “Good for you!” as we celebrate the monumental milestone of women getting the vote in this country? Or will we roll up our sleeves and ask, “What can I do to take it to the next level for my organization and the women in my life?”
Let’s get to work.
Jeffery Tobias Halter is president of YWomen, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. Founder of the Father of Daughter Initiative, creator of the Gender Conversation QuickStarters Newsletter and the Male Advocacy Profile, Jeffery is former director of diversity strategy for The Coca-Cola Company and is the author of two books, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men and Selling to Men, Selling to Women.