Gentlemen, consider this your formal invitation.
As we recognize April 10 as Equal Pay Day – the symbolic day women would make as much as men in the previous calendar year – I invite you to please join the movement to create equal opportunity at your workplace.
I share this invitation because I needed an invitation, too.
It’s embarrassing to admit. Even though I work in tech, as a PR guy I’ve always been surrounded by – and supportive of – strong women. But, in truth, it took an invitation (and more than one) from my women colleagues to start to actively participate in creating gender equality at work, and not just applaud from the sidelines.
It wasn’t until I joined in that I realized this issue can’t wait for half of society to watch and listen. If we truly support equality, men must be involved in creating equality, because they still hold most of the power.
If we truly want our industry to embrace equal opportunities for all, and fulfill the promise of initiatives like 100% Talent to end the gender wage gap in King County, men must also take action. It’s imperative for success.
We must overcome what would seem to be a contradiction in our expectations versus our actions. In recent research conducted by my company, Weber Shandwick, 73 percent of global executives (who are majority men) believe that gender equality at the C-level will be achieved by 2030, yet most companies don’t have specific goals for achieving that outcome. We seem to be willing and wanting for equality to happen, yet unaware we may have to do any work to get there.
And helping women achieve leadership roles would have an impact on the pay gap. One of the primary reasons the gap persists is that women are underrepresented in the best-paying positions in the labor market. According to a report released last week by compensation data and software company PayScale, men are 70 percent more likely to be in VP or C-suite roles than women by mid-career and 142 percent more likely to hold those positions by late career.
Lest we men fall into a trap of thinking this is just good for women, the data shows that it is good for all of us.
For business, companies with 50 percent women in senior operating roles show 19 percent higher return on equity on average, according to a recent Credit Suisse Research Institute report. And nearly even gender representation correlates to happier, more productive employees and up to 41 percent increased revenue.
You don’t have to look farther than our own backyard to see the kind of transformation a dedicated effort to gender diversity in senior ranks can create. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s highly visible turnaround on this issue now has many applauding Microsoft’s focus on improving its gender diversity, and they are crediting women leadership as critical to the 35 percent higher return it posted in the past year.
Yet despite the obvious need for more talent (especially in this town and industry), the positive benefits of diverse leadership and workforces (including both women and people of color), and the positive personal benefits we can create, men still have been hesitant to act.
Hopefully, that will change, as the gender equality movement is more actively welcoming men to join its ranks, and men are responding.
I’m fortunate to have been exposed early to my company’s work supporting HeforShe, a UN for Women initiative spearheaded by Emma Watson in 2014, in which she asked, “How can we affect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”
More male leaders are also beginning to recognize and advocate for our role. “Men, own this as your issue,” proclaimed Los Angeles Mayor Eddie Garcetti recently. “Let’s not talk about doing it because we have daughters and sisters and mothers. Do it because we know our cities will be more prosperous when we, as leaders, step up.”
The time is right for men to take action. I’ve heard concerns that men will retreat in the light of #MeToo, but my hope is even more men will distinguish themselves as positive influences. These two movements are two sides of the same coin. #MeToo is rightfully exposing abusers of unequal power and making it clearer than ever what behaviors are not tolerated, while efforts like HeforShe are opening new doors for men to embrace behaviors to positively impact the imbalance. As Mayor Garcetti implores, it’s up to us to step up.
For men who’d like to help, the question naturally arises of what to do next? Well, this Equal Pay Day, perhaps we can start with just showing up. Asking our colleagues how we can help. We can champion high potential women and advocate for the work they do. And, we can even participate in company-wide initiatives, and attend industry or local events.
Locally, the afternoon of April 10 you can show up at PayScale, which is kicking off the first in a series of local ally events called “Use Your Power Hour,” calling on men and women to come together to brainstorm ways to show up for women and people of color in the workplace. Our hope is more people can join the campaign to #UseYourPower and commit to specific steps to effect change.
So men, please accept this invitation. RSVP with action. Your response will be warmly welcomed.