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Earning Power!: November 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Science of Change: Wage Gap Tipping Point

Most people think that women’s earnings will steadily increase over time until the wage gap between men and women is closed. According to some estimates, such as predictions by the Women’s Committee of 200, it will take another 50 years to do so. After all, its taken 40 years for the gap to move from 59 cents to about 76 cents to a man’s dollar.

Others are more skeptical, as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggests, the wage gap has recently been slightly increasing year over year. As an example from 2003 to 2004, women’s average salaries against men have worsened.

If we were able to have men view the wage gap as a man’s issue rather than a woman’s issue, would we be able to begin paying people equally regardless of gender? What would it take to have this idea reach a “tipping point”, or critical mass?

Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller The Tipping Point suggested that social change happens more like an epidemic than a slow, steady rise. Although woman have been steadily pushing for equal workplace rights for years, perhaps what is needed is the other half of the human race to have a thought change. The idea that men matter can be a message that changes ideas and behavior like an outbreak, and leads to sudden and surprising solutions.

A meme is an idea that behaves like a virus, in order to transmit new behavior from one man to another. How would this actually work?

1) Dispel the myths. In order to get past bias fears have to be addressed upfront.
2) Reiterate the benefits. In order to have a head and heart change a personal connection must be made, rather than relying on legislation.
3) Show the way. When we have courage and understanding, we can overcome paralysis to move toward solutions together.

So what are the benefits to men who hire, promote and pay women as they would men?

Solving issues of social injustice and human rights may motivate some men. However, from a corporate standpoint men need to understand the bottom line. Solving women’s issues leads to decreased capital outlay and increased profits. How? Companies mitigate risks by lessening exposure to needless litigation. In addition, there is evidence that companies with women in key leadership roles perform better financially. Barriers to effective interactions between employees are also eliminated decreasing turnover, giving more time on task, and allowing a faster time to market.

From a personal standpoint, men who sponsor wives, daughters and female coworkers can increase their own work life balance and enjoy the benefits of flexible options at work. Dual income families have improved total economic viability, and the better prospects help overcome poverty and improve the survival of the family. This load sharing can also improve men’s mental and physical health over time.
Some men will feel they have a fuller humanity, giving their children more options than they had, getting some relief from the pressure to be the sole provider, and enjoying a more active fatherhood and commitment to interpersonal relationships with their family.

Are these benefits enough to overcome the suspicions between genders? They ought to be enough to make us curious to explore joint solutions with men in power within a non-threatening framework. The goal is a corporate culture transformation. Restoring hope in the negotiations may be what is needed to bring enough positive passion to the wage issue that it won’t still be our grandchildren’s issue 50 years from now.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Response to Newsweek Women Leaders Article

Behind Every Powerful Woman…

October 24th Newsweek's cover is about HOW WOMEN LEAD: 20 of America's Most Powerful Women. Taking a closer look, we can see they lead with sponsorship from powerful men.

Governor Bush, my husband Bob, my father, my brother, Brig. Gen. Richard Richard Ursone, Lt. Col. Robert Bowles, ACCION’s president Bill Burris, Mayor Gavin Newsome, Former Xerox CEO David Kearns, Woody Herman’s arranger, Leonard Bernstein, and my friend the casting director. Here’s the new challenge for feminism at work---recognizing the men that coached your 20 Most Powerful Women to success!

The fact is that most of the women leaders today are fictional because men are still in charge of 70-99% of corporate boards, executive officer positions, college professorships, government and even news editing positions. With all of that influence, women need powerful men to help break barriers for them. Especially since we have not reached the “critical mass of women in leadership” you touted, nor have they achieved equality in pay.

The grocery cashier who sold me my copy of Newsweek answered your cover on the lessons learned when she smirked doubtfully and said, “Yeah, You can’t depend on men!” But the powerful women leaders’ answer to the cashier seems to be an entirely different experience, that men can be credited for inspiring them, sponsoring them, and even creating a flexible workplace where they can bring their two-year-old on the campaign.

A better question than “how” is “why” these women have the opportunity to lead. They prove powerful men believed in their talent, made change, and broke barriers to success. When men choose to empower women, then equality can be achieved, and women as leaders won’t be unusual enough to make the cover of Newsweek.