Workplace Gender Discrimination Comes into Focus Thanks to Trump

Trump’s comments about how he thinks about and treats women angered me and hopefully most of the people on the planet. And I do believe much of the criticism surrounding Hilary as president all stem from people’s discomfort at her being a woman. We are not used to women in leadership roles and biases run deep. It is much easier for many to talk about trust issues and whether she is relatable rather than to actually admit that they may be uncomfortable with the fact that she is a woman.

The presidential election has been doing a good job of bringing many of the issues that women face in the workplace to the surface [ 1]. If you were to compare Trump’s resume with Hilary’s but remove the names on the top, there would be no question who is better qualified to be president of the United States. The major differentiator is that she is a woman. And this type of bias exists in all types of organizations. Even very innovative companies such as Apple have recently been in the spotlight for the toxic environment it has created for women and minorities [2]. In Apple’s case, 32% of its workforce is made up of women yet women have systematically been passed over for career progression opportunities.

In 2016 there are just 23 Female CEOs in fortune 500 companies even though research shows that female led companies perform better overall than male led companies. But still investors are more reluctant to invest in an organization led by a woman. Women led companies are more likely to experience investor activism than male led companies according to a study of Fortune 1000 companies over a ten year period. Recent research on pay increases show that women ask for raises as much as men do but are 25% less likely to get them. And we continue to earn less than our male counterparts [3]. For example, female lawyers earn 44% less than their male counterparts [4]. Women have to be better and fight harder than our male counterparts to achieve the same successes in the workplace.

There have been some conscious efforts to improve the working conditions for women. In the Obama administration, women started a strategy called ‘amplification’ to get their voices heard in male-dominated meetings. If a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own [5]. The Stevie Awards, one of the premier business awards, made a point of including a category for women in business to make sure that their contributions are recognized [6]. Canada is promising to put forward proactive legislation, which will apply to federally regulated industries and will be complete in 2018. The Ontario government released a report on 25 August, 2016 outlining a number of ways to eliminate the gender pay gap and encouraging businesses to adopt transparent payment policies [7]. And there are lots of companies out there that are examining and changing their hiring processes, compensation policies, and career progression paths to strive for gender parity. I am very proud that StarGarden’s workforce is 50% women and 75% of our management team is female.

We all agree that governments can do more and companies can do more but these biases are deep and hidden. We have to look hard at our own lives and the way we think and the stories we tell. Many do not even realize how deeply their behaviours are affected by their biases. The changes that need to be made are in our control. We just need to be conscious of what we are doing and deliberate in our actions.


About the Author:

Marnie Larson is the CEO of StarGarden Corporation and oversees its operations in Canada, US and New Zealand. She has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and specializes in HCM, Business process automation and Workflow technology.