Lauren feels her heart beat faster as she walks down the hall toward her manager’s office. She is about to surprise her manager with the unwelcome news of her resignation. Lauren does not want to resign, but with a toddler at home and another on the way, she is beyond overwhelmed. Lauren worked extremely hard to get to the director level and always thought her career trajectory would keep climbing. Until recently the thought of taking a break from her career never entered her mind. She is worried about the mommy penalty but does not know how she can balance the opposing demands of her once 9 to 10 hour a day job and her family for the next few months let-alone years into the future. The only solution seems to be to resign, but she wishes there was a viable alternative.
The math doesn’t make sense. The split between men and women in the US is roughly half (50.8% women to 49.2% men says the US Census). Girls tend to perform slightly better in school than boys in all subjects including math and science. Women are earning a little more than half of all types of college degrees, including masters degrees and doctorates.
Until our early twenties, we are roughly equal, and there is no reason why we should not expect them to continue being equal. Oddly, right after we all find our first jobs, things start to shift. A lot.
Overall, women receive 20% less pay than men for comparable jobs with even more significant gaps in some professions. Only 19% of the tech roles belong to women and that disparity gets even worse in senior positions. Studies vary but somewhere between 30 – 43% of women reluctantly take a break in their careers and experience severe penalties when they try to return even just a year later.
Does this make you mad? It makes me mad.
So I was happy to see one industry take a stand. In 2016 Stacy Smith presented a TED talk about gender inequality in Hollywood where, among other action items, she introduced the idea of inclusion riders. If you are wondering what inclusion riders are, there is an excellent definition in a recent NPR article. “It’s a stipulation that actors and actresses can ask (or demand) to have inserted into their contracts, which would require a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew.” You might have recently heard of inclusion riders when Frances McDormand made the idea semi-famous at the Oscars.
I was even happier to see that Samantha Whitehorne at AssociationsNow took the idea and applied it to associations, meetings, and speakers. You go, Samantha!
Think of inclusion riders as just one tactic that might solve gender disparity (and this might not even be the right tactic in every situation.) It is the massive issue behind inclusion riders which is sexism and gender disparity, that our industry should tackle.
Fortunately, some associations are highlighting gender inequality issues. Associations are researching the pay gap. Associations are ensuring the speaker, and panel guest ratio is 50/50. And associations are looking into what happens in the most senior positions.
Might associations also pave the way for more equitable practices, policies, and procedures in their members’ workplaces? Associations could be at the forefront of the discussion of how to get the work done while restructuring the workday or the work itself or career paths to give everyone a better work/life balance. Our associations have the publishing platform, the research capability, and the legislative might to force action on this issue in our industries and professions.
Gender disparity is one of the most significant workforce issues we have to fix. If we fix gender disparity, we also take a step toward fixing other problems like the skills gap retiring Boomers are leaving, culture issues, and more. Sexism is a complicated, intertwined mess of an issue. But that does not mean it is not solvable, one step at a time. All associations can take action.
I am starting a new workplace research project uncovering how professional working parents juggle conflicting work and family demands (childcare, eldercare, sick family member care). This research will reveal the mix of support given by their organization, the nature of their work, managers, co-workers, and from within their own family that enables to them to have a fulfilling career while also having a satisfying home life. The goal of the research is to help the women who want to stay on their career path escape the motherhood penalty and enjoy the career growth they deserve.
Are you interested in this project? Let’s connect!