CEO's Need to Add Gender Equity in the Workplace to Their Commitment to End Inequality By: Jackie Robinson
The nation, the country, the world is in an uproar. An outcry like one that has not been heard since the Civil Rights movement is piercing through the ears of those who have chosen to not hear the voices of those who screamed and cried for justice and equal and fair treatment. Finally, someone other than those who are crying out are listening.
What's Really Going On?
So here we are. A man by the name of George Floyd, Jr., came along, on what seemed to be a divine assignment, to ring the alarm, again. With barely any air in his lungs, while pleading for his life, he was still able to ring the alarm. He died ringing the alarm so loudly that people responded across the world. As a result, there have been protests and demands for justice and equality. Subsequently, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have spoken out publicly about the need for racial equality and justice and have committed to do their part in developing a solution. In fact, a Business Roundtable Committee has been created that is represented by CEOs of those Fortune 500 companies. It is exciting to see the world showing compassion for a group of people, real humans, who have been mistreated for hundreds of years. My hope is that all of the compassion does not fade away once the protests stop and that the universal fight against racism will continue with people of all races speaking up, standing up, and fighting for the cause.
Who's At The Table?
Now…..regarding this CEO Roundtable Committee. Currently, there are only 4 male CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who are black, and not one black female. Not one. So, that means the representation of the very people that the committee was created to find solutions for is severely deficient. There is a double deficiency; less than one percent of black people in this elite group, and no women at all in that miniscule number. This, in and of itself, is a racial equality issue. Major corporations and Fortune 500s need to be sure they are speaking out and creating solutions for change concerning racial equality within their workforces just as they are speaking out on what needs to be happening in this regard on the outside and in the community. What they are doing now is respectable but it would be honorable and commendable if they would take an introspective look at their internal operations and makeup of their leadership teams and demonstrate, with action, their commitment to equality by bringing more women to the table, and adding more black men.
What About Women?
But let’s talk about women, who are not represented at all. In 2019 alone, there were several reports released that indicate that companies with female leaders perform better. Those companies are also reported to have more employee engagement. That is likely because women are better at building and sustaining relationships than men. Having a C-suite that includes more women has been connected to having higher profits. Further, results from a research study conducted by The Female Quotient, Berlin Cameron, and the Harris Poll conclude that 50% of Americans want to work for a female leader, mainly because they believe the work culture will be better. Companies that are inclusive and practice gender diversity in all aspects of their company, including in leadership, are likely to outperform those who don’t.
In addition, it has been reported over and over again, by various research companies, that women make a positive difference in business outcomes. So why is it that companies that are led by men are not jumping at the opportunity to set themselves up for greater success by bringing women in to decision-making and executive positions? Why is it that women still receive only a fraction of investment funds that are awarded each year when they own 4 out of 10 businesses in the United States, with African American women owning 64% of those? One reason is probably because there are not enough women in the decision-making seat when it comes to funding business ventures.
What Will Create More Impact?
So essentially, if the Business Roundtable Committee of big shot CEOs really wants to make an impactful difference, they would not only spend money to create training programs for other companies, organizations, and programs to combat systemic racism and inequality, they will take the first step by starting within their own organizations. They would level the playing field through racial and gender equity acts, and not just write an initiative to include in their annual report. Anyone can create an initiative. What really matters is the action that supports the initiative. There needs to be some action regarding gender equity.
Women deserve equal opportunities in the workplace and in business. Let’s see how many companies will add this to their agenda.
Injustice of any kind is a tragedy and I hope that George, Floyd, Jr. did not die in vain and that the legacy of his death will be evident in communities and within businesses and organizations.
Jackie Robinson is Founder of SheBoss Unlimited, a women's empowerment and leadership development organization, and is also an advocate for gender equity and diversity and inclusion.