Does Your Culture Support Gender Diversity?

Google last week spurred a conversation about diversity in the workplace when it revealed statistics on the diversity of its own employees and lamented that the mix of men to women and whites to ethnic minorities is not as balanced as the company would like.
On paper, your company might think it is gender-neutral when it comes to opportunities for career advancement. But the reality is that cultural factors and a lack of confidence continue to hold back progress for women managers, suggests new McKinsey research.
The firm's survey of 1,421 global executives found that men and women have roughly the same ambitions for advancement: approximately 80 percent of both genders agreed strongly that they had top management aspirations. But only 69 percent of the senior female executives surveyed were confident that they could reach the C-suite, compared with 86 percent of the males.
"We found that a favorable environment and cultural factors weighed twice as heavily as individual factors in determining how confident women felt about reaching top management," write the McKinsey consultants who analyzed the study, Sandrine Devillard, Sandrine Sancier-Sultan and Charlotte Werner.
The three thorniest issues:
Cultural expectations about styles. Almost 40 percent of the women responding to the McKinsey study said they don't believe the current model for top management supports women's leadership or communications styles. Yes, we're talking about the perception that while it's okay for men to wield an iron fist when it comes to enforcing strategy or motivating people, women who manage this way wind up with unfortunate labels, like "bossy" or worse.
Persistent work-life balance issues. Men and women agree that top managers must be ready for an "anytime, anywhere" job reality, but females continue to pay the price when children are involved. Approximately 62 percent of the respondents indicated that having children was "compatible" with a high-level management career for women, while far more, 80 percent, think that's true for men.
Fewer men acknowledge that there's a problem. Maybe the biggest factor of all is the fact that many men don't believe that women face more challenges. Fully 28 percent of them disagreed with this statement: "Even with equal skills and qualifications, women have much more difficulty reaching top-management positions." That compares with just 5 percent for women.
"The upshot is that there's still room for firmer engagement among male executives, for more inclusivity, and for a more comprehensive ecosystem of measures – which will benefit from a strong, visible commitment by the CEO and the executive committee," the McKinsey authors wrote.
If any of these themes seem eerily familiar, your team might want to consult CRN's latest Women of the Channel report for ideas on how to reset gender perceptions within your own operation. Otherwise, you may be leaving opportunities for growth on the table.
After all, when it comes to leadership effectiveness, a massive study conducted by Zenger Folkman and published a couple of years ago in the Harvard Business Review showed the female leaders consistently outperformed men – especially when it came to taking initiative and driving for results. The only place where men outscored women significantly was when it came to the ability to develop a strategic perspective. Which only goes to prove, again, that the best plan is to build a culture where both sexes are encouraged to build on each other's strengths.
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