Recently Amy Rebecca Gay, Jane Honoroff and I attended the 12th Annual Massachusetts Conference for Women. This is not your typical conference – it draws over 10,000 people annually and sells out in a matter of hours. This year’s conference featured powerhouse speakers Anita Hill, Sara Blakely, Carla Harris and Gayle King. The theme of the conference was “The Power of Us: Amplify Your Voice.” According to Alison Quirk, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Office of State Street Corporation, “the conference theme speaks to the power of combining our voices, passions and talents to achieve meaningful impact in our lives and the world.”
On the first day of the conference I attended the Workplace Summit. I was drawn to the theme of the day, “Pioneering Equity Through Gender Partnership.” Because TMG serves a very diverse client base, we spend a lot of time thinking about equity and inclusion, particularly as it relates to the organizations and communities we serve. While a lot has changed since I entered the workforce as a young and ambitious woman in the 1980’s, there are still many barriers for women in the workforce and deep salary gaps between the genders. Some attribute these salary gaps to the differences in how men and women negotiate. As my colleague Amy Gay points out in her recent blog about gender differences in negotiation, women tend to place a greater emphasis on preserving or enhancing the relationship than men do. It is very easy to think of pay and gender inequality as a “women’s issue”, but as we discussed at this particular workshop, gender equality doesn’t just affect women….it affects everyone! As leaders and managers, we must aspire to create organizations that evaluate and compensate everyone fairly and by transparent standards, provide equal opportunities for men and women and foster a culture of collaboration (not competition) between the genders. We need to get away from the “us vs. them” mentality and instead form strategic partnerships with our male counterparts. Well this all sounded great….but how do we actually do it? There was no lack of opinions in the room on this one. One common theme was the need to have men play a critical role in diversity and inclusion initiatives. As one participant put it, “Men can – and should be partners in educating other men and moving organizations toward gender equality.” Representatives from the Catalyst research organization and Proctor & Gamble offered some concrete tips for garnering the support of men for diversity and inclusion initiatives based on their own success stories:
· Frame Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts as a business and social issue with far-reaching benefits for all groups.
· Communicate the benefits men can gain from a more diverse and inclusive workplace (what’s in it for them)
· Create opportunities for male role models who champion gender inclusion to mentor others and challenge the status quo
· Pair men with women mentors (including peer or reverse mentoring)
· Discourage zero-sum thinking and reward collaboration
· Provide opportunities for meaningful dialogue on issues of diversity and difference
I left this conference with a renewed enthusiasm for the work we do at TMG - helping people and organizations resolve their toughest conflicts and engage in meaningful dialogue about important issues that affect us all.