Skillsoft Blog

Let’s Wipe Out Gender Inequality in the Workplace

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By Tara O'Sullivan

“We need to raise the ceiling and the floor.”

– Sheryl Sandberg

I am incredibly passionate about ensuring women are treated equally to men in all things, and especially at work. Today we are still paid less than men, represented in fewer board positions, and hold fewer leadership positions in companies. Fortunately, this disparity is gaining attention—and companies are beginning to take action to rectify the situation. I believe we have both the tools and the means to realize equality for women in my lifetime.

In the U.S. the fact that there are more male CEOs named ‘John’ than all female CEOs combined not only demonstrates the lack of female CEOs, it also illustrates a dearth of racial and ethnic diversity. We know too that economies and GDPs improve when more women hold positions of power and, perhaps most importantly, that we have available women trained and ready to assume leadership roles.

So it makes good business sense for greater female representation, women are entering college in greater numbers than ever before… and yet, this gender gap remains.

A study by Lean In and McKinsey found that across all organizational levels, women are 15% less likely than men to get promoted. Why?

  • Women apply for new roles when they believe to have 100% of the requirements for the position. Men will apply when they have only 60%. There are several reasons for this, and this HBR article covers the lack of a level playing field.
  • In a recent study of performance reviews, 66% of women received negative feedback on their personal style such as “You can sometimes be abrasive,” compared to less than 1% of men.
  • Women face a double standard when it comes to behavior. Men are expected to be assertive and confident, so coworkers welcome their leadership. In contrast, women are expected to be nurturing and collaborative, so when we lead, we go against expectations—and often face pushback from men and women. When a woman speaks in a direct style or pushes her ideas, she is often called “aggressive” and “ambitious.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong.”
  • Women often credit our accomplishments to external factors such as “getting lucky” and “help from others,” while men attribute theirs to innate qualities and skills. They own their success, and we undermine ours.
  • Women face an uneven playing field at work. This bias is so pronounced that simply changing the name on a résumé from a female to male increases a candidate’s hireability by 61%.

Bias can be unconscious or conscious. Either way we need to call it out.

SumTotal has developed solutions that enable a company to address bias – whether conscious or unconscious. These solutions help ensure fair and accurate compensation by basing merit increases and bonuses on an objective and transparent process that aligns with employee performance. They also identify areas where you may need to adjust your hiring or advancement strategies. Learn more here.

Additionally, Skillsoft has created Skillsoft Women in Action, a high-impact leadership program that helps women in all stages of their careers overcome gender biases and build their personal leadership brands. This isn’t just something we’re offering our customers–we’ve rolled out the program internally to female employees at Skillsoft, SumTotal and Vodeclic. More than 800 women are participating, and we’ve gotten enthusiastic responses so far.

It is our goal that, by making these tools available, we can play a part in establishing a workplace where everyone is afforded the same financial and leadership opportunities — regardless of gender.

Want to decrease the workplace gender gap? Watch this on-demand webinar on why women aren’t leading organizations… and how to fix it.

Tara O'Sullivan is the Women in Action Executive Sponsor and Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft.

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