The #MeToo era has made clear that we haven’t yet reached workplace gender equality. As a young professional woman, this is definitely not news to me. Still, to many who believe that we have entered a state of perfect equality, this may come as a shock.
I believe that leadership is the best path to change. We can no longer think of equality as simply an issue for women’s organizations to grapple with. Those in leadership positions, both men and women, must address equality.
Gender Equality in the Workplace
One clear way to promote gender equality in the workplace is to have more women in leadership positions. They can in turn implement policies and lead organizational cultures that promote equality. According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, female leaders even more effective than male leaders. Of the 19 leadership capabilities the study assessed, women outscored men in 17 categories. These included skills that society traditionally associates with male leaders, such as “drives for results” and “bold leadership.” Despite women’s clear leadership prowess, however, fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
So how do we change the conversation about women and leadership? How can we work to improve companies so they can welcome female leaders? Much of what is required is a part of a frustratingly slow process of cultural change, but as women break into diverse sectors and into roles traditionally considered “male,” we will speed the cultural shift.
The Need for More Female Leaders
Every sector needs more female leaders, but a few in particular stand out as predominantly male. The tech, finance, and STEM fields notoriously lack female leadership. Unsurprisingly, women in those careers report that it is especially “tough” to be female. Whether or not the boss is female (which is rare in these industries), company leadership can do far more to promote equal footing in the workplace. Leaders can encourage an equality culture by ensuring that communications reach men and women equally. STEM companies especially should ensure that they run meetings in a way that doesn’t allow men to drown out women. These workplace changes are already basic tenets of good leadership and are also strong corporate inclusivity policies. With more inclusive, equal workplaces, we can expect to see women rise steadily in the ranks across diverse sectors.
More Women in MBA Programs
From our work in admissions counseling, one encouraging sign that more women will soon be in the boardrooms and behind the “big desk” is the number of women applying for and earning MBA degrees. In nearly every other field of higher education, from undergraduate programs to Masters and Ph.D. programs, women have outpaced men in enrollment for a number of years now. However, women in MBA programs are the exception; they comprise only about 38% of MBA students. However, in 2018, a record 46% of those who sat for the GMAT were women, and many MBA programs report a steady increase in female applicants, so schools should keep that momentum going.
While women comprise over half the world’s population, they enter STEM fields and MBA programs in overwhelmingly low numbers in comparison to their male counterparts. For the future to truly be female, our current leaders need to work harder to make these fields more open to female leadership, which will guide us towards gender equality at every level of all companies.