Charlotte Business Buzz

Gender Inequality in the Workplace

December 07, 2020 UNC Charlotte Season 2
Charlotte Business Buzz
Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Chapters
Charlotte Business Buzz
Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Dec 07, 2020 Season 2
UNC Charlotte

Two UNC Charlotte researchers are taking a unique approach to advancing gender equality in the workplace: They're engaging male leaders. George Banks, associate professor in the Department of Management in the Belk College, and Jill Yavorsky, assistant professor in the Sociology Department in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, to discuss the issue.

Show Notes Transcript

Two UNC Charlotte researchers are taking a unique approach to advancing gender equality in the workplace: They're engaging male leaders. George Banks, associate professor in the Department of Management in the Belk College, and Jill Yavorsky, assistant professor in the Sociology Department in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, to discuss the issue.

Im Jeffrey Jones, Director of Executive Education and Professional Development at UNC Charlotte, and this is Charlotte Business Buzz. Connecting the Queen Citys business community From UNC Charlottes Belk College of Business.... This is Charlotte Business Buzz. Welcome to a new season of Charlotte Business Buzz. For this podcast, borne out of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, well take a broader look at how UNC Charlotte and the Belk College of Business are impacting the Queen City through research, workforce development and business partnerships. In the United States today., men represent nearly 94% of Fortune 500 CEOs and own two-thirds of non-farm businesses. Men also represent two-thirds of doctors and lawyers in the most lucrative and prestigious specialties in their field, and are the majority of full professors. Two UNC Charlotte researchers are taking a unique approach to the problem of gender inequality . Theyve developed training that focuses on male leaders.

Joining us to discuss are:

Dr. Jill Yavorsky, assistant professor in the Sociology Department and Organizational Science program, and George Banks, an associate professor in the Department of Management in the Belk College. Thanks for having me. So I'm interested in how you guys got started - what led you to focus your research on gender inequality ? So gender inequality and of course intercepting forms of inequality are some of the most pressing and critical issues of our time - you know unfortunately gender is still a big decider in the advantages and disadvantages that people will face in their lifetime and so to me it was really about contributing to understanding patterns and mechanisms of inequality that this is really necessary to have a variety of researchers that tackle this important topic and so I'm very passionate about this topic and it really kind of drives my fuel for my work. Yeah, - Jeff this is George - I'd say for me it was just watching the news, reading books, and talking to friends, family members, colleagues - seeing how much inequality is out there and it just blows my mind the fact that we've known about this inequality for decades and yet we've really struggled and in some areas have plateaued in terms of the progress that's been made. So what led you guys to collaborate? We both are members of the organizational science Ph.D. program at UNC Charlotte. So Ive been at UNC Charlotte for about six years - Jill, I think slightly fewer than that. When she joined the program, I started talking to her - we've served on a couple of committees together, student committees - and saw that we had some similar interests around this topic and so we've started to kind of now begin a collaboration which has been really fun but also I think productive and so it's something that I hope we'll continue to do in terms of working together on this. Yeah, just to echo what George said - I mean one, in terms of George he's an amazing scholar so I think a lot of people want to collaborate with him but in terms of our professional relationship we really kind of bonded over this shared interest about reducing inequality, gender, race, class and that really I think connected us in a meaningful way to want to collaborate on these issues so I think that that really brought us together. So, what do the gender inequality issues in the workplace look like today? Okay, so this is vast - this is a big question and it's complex - so first we've made a ton of progress - that's clear. Since the 1960s. 70s and. 80s that we have reduced the gender wage gap, that women have made gains in managerial representation, and entering into key male-dominated jobs - like business, medical fields, and law. The bad news unfortunately, as George also alluded to earlier, is that a lot of this progress has stalled - it's been come to known as the stalled gender revolution. So we really haven't made a whole lot of progress on some of these key gender measures - such as the labor force participation rate of women have plateaued since the mid 1990s, the gender wage gap we've really seen a slowing of gains since the mid 1990s, and then we've also seen a stalling of integrating occupations in that occupations are still very segregated by gender. And so really I think about this in terms of kind of where inequality is embedded is three different buckets. So the first is labor market entry is that women still face significant barriers to just participate in the labor force - in large part because the u.s has abysmal work-family policies we're one of the only developing countries that doesn't have basic family paid leave. We also don't have subsidized child care and this is one of the biggest issues is that when families do not have reliable child care if they cannot afford it, they rely on women to drop out of the labor force, essentially. It's a big driver that when they can't find child care it pushes women out of the labor market, and then another area is this occupational segregation piece men and women tend to occupy different and unequal jobs and so research by Paula England as well as many other scholars have documented that when you compare male-dominated jobs versus female-dominated jobs that are comparable in skill, training, and education requirements that male-dominated jobs tend to pay more than female-dominated jobs. So a quick example of this is a UPS driver for example getting paid significantly more than a nurse's aide. They require similar low education requirements, lower training, physical labor requirements but male-dominated jobs tend to pay more and this unfortunately we see this across the occupational chain that this is a consistent form of wage inequality and then the third bucket which I think people are more familiar with is bias and discrimination that really occurs within promotion and advancement opportunities that thwarts women's abilities to work their way up the corporate chains or access high income positions. So, I'm really curious about the plateauing. Do you think it's those three buckets that are pulling down the ability to make further progress or is there some other factor that's causing this plateauing of progress? Yeah so it's a variety of stalling in policies that we haven't seen any sort of major legislation that has been intended to jump start gender progress since the mid-1990s - so that's one factor. Another factor is that a lot of the efforts to overcome gender inequality in the workplace has been fix the woman - and we know that these are not largely not effective. So this is common for - if women were to just act more like men then they would advance - and the issue of course is that women have been leaning in and we know that progress has stalled. We also - I mean what's interesting about that - we also know that when women do act in stereotypical masculine ways they tend to receive backlash - it tends to backfire. So, these are the common stereotypes that a woman instead of being a leader is called bossy - she's too aggressive, she's too assertive - which you know we know from research on performance evaluations women are much more likely to get this type of feedback - that they're considered too assertive. So we need actual organizational policy changes in addition to federal policy changes so it really needs to be on the onerous of - or the burden needs to fall on the employers to fix the policies and practices that perpetuate biases within their systems. So what does your research tell you about how to approach these issues? When you look at the self-help books that are on the bookshelves of bookstores, or on amazon, or you pick up the newspaper, some of these other sources - you see a lot of content directed at a female audience - that Jill and I have done a lot of these training sessions before, where we go into an organization that's interested in improving it - attendance - you look out into the audience and it's a majority female. We've done this in a variety of different types of platforms and a lot of the advice that's given is targeted at females to say this is what you can do. Now Jill just mentioned that one of the big shifts which we're hoping to see is more efforts on the part of organizations to look at structural factors within their organization external to the organization - say what can we do structurally to actually create a better working environment for women but also it's gonna I think has some benefits for men as well. One of the other main things is just getting men involved in the conversation, and that is I think one of the really big messages that seems to be missing from a lot of the conversations going on right now - because again you attend these training and hey you know if half the workforce is made up of men and women - you know why is half the workforce missing from these conversations. We'll talk a bit more about this but the fact that men are in authority positions in a lot of different industries - they're in a great fantastic position to lend their voice to talking about this type of inequality so if you look across areas of science, medicine, business, politics, men dominate these upper echelons and they could really do a whole lot in terms of helping to improve the broad structural issues, policies -but also just at a more individual level in terms of their interactions with their their colleagues and whether those colleagues are men or women. So, Im curious - are there just things just, dont work? My advice - and I'd be interested to hear Jill's advice on this as well - is for organizations to try. I think that there's not going to be one kind of silver bullet or just fix all to all these different types of issues, you're going to actually have to sit down and try to make structural changes within your organization, try to see what's working, what doesn't work and basically almost - take a scientific approach to it where you're evaluating the effectiveness of certain different types of techniques and my guess is for most folks who are listening to this podcast that want to make some change they're probably going to try multiple things to have success and the fact that you implement one thing and it's not going to completely solve the problem doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it. So, really we'd encourage organizations to try multiple things to try to create this incremental change. To piggyback on that you know one of the things that we know that doesn't work is that when companies do single-tiered efforts - so if they just do a diversity training and then they think that their efforts are done. We know in fact that knowledge and progress from diversity trainings are oftentimes short-lived - sometimes they can actually create backlash - and so when we take these kind of single-focus efforts they oftentimes do not actually create meaningful change, so we really need multi-tiered processes and practices to change the actual inequality within organizations. So, what are the research-informed best practices that folks might entertain to address gender inequality? Yeah so there are lots of things that organizations can do to improve equality within their organizations. So I'm really going to draw on work by Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev. Kalev is at Tel Aviv University and Frank Dobbin is at Harvard - and they've done a ton of research over several decades on this issue and some of the formal programs that they recommend - that their research shows is effective and actually shifting organizational power - which is really important - there's a difference between increasing knowledge and actually shifting organizational power to people who are underrepresented like women and people of color. So, a few of these programs include college recruitment - actually targeting underrepresented workers like people of color and women. Other things include formal mentoring and sponsorship programs. So what we know from research on social networks is that people tend to take on mentors who look like them and so when the majority of executive leaders still are men - particularly white men - they oftentimes are more likely to take on proteges that look like them. Which of course is deeply problematic because it excludes women from access to this power and people of color from access to power. And I want to also note that mentorship and sponsorship are two different things. So women are oftentimes over-mentored and under-sponsored. So mentorship is about giving advice - which is still critical, people need advice on how to manage their careers, and what opportunities to pursue - but the sponsorship takes this kind of mentorship level another degree - it amps it up. Sponsorship is about actually advocating for your sponsee in important meetings with other leaders. It's increasing the visibility of your sponsee, it's recommending them for special assignments, it's a much more active role than passively giving workers advice - and then a few other things are diversity task force and diversity managers. Actually having people who are responsible for overseeing diversity within organizations - it makes organizations more responsible for overseeing progress - and then this relates to one of my last points, is actually developing goals and tracking these goals. Organizations are often so good at tracking financial metrics, and product development but yet they fail to do even basic recording of - are there gender disparities in wages, are women concentrated in lower status jobs than men, are female-dominated jobs do they have lower upward mobility to advance positions - so starting to actually track this and as George mentioned earlier too is that if a program isn't working within your organizations - change it. Measure that progress, treat it like a research experiment, and find other solutions. So those are you know a few key formalized processes of programs that have been shown to actually increase managerial representation for women and people of color. We're going to take a short break and when we come back we'll continue our conversation with Jill and George. The Belk College has been driving business in the Charlotte region for over 50 years. Join us throughout this academic year as we celebrate those who have helped us grow from humble beginnings to become one of the largest business schools in the Carolinas. Learn more at Belk College dot E-D-U slash 50. Welcome back to Charlotte Business Buzz. Before the break, we were talking about best practices. Who needs to own and implement these best practices? So what role does a CEO or business owner play and maybe what does HR? So to me the easy answer is everybody. This is truly something that we all need to embrace within organizations and we need to embrace at all levels - like we're answering just a moment ago. Now certainly if you're looking to implement fast cultural change within the organization - one of the easiest things that feels like you can do is start with the top of the organization. Adding someone who is at the c-suite level as an executive within the organization whose job it is to to do this, to promote this, can really make a difference. Now we've seen, historically - you mentioned HR, Jeff - HR was a lower level component within a lot of organizations - instructions came from the top down to HR. Then we kind of saw a bit more two-way conversation developing within organizations. Now more and more we do see Fortune 500 companies and other large organizations that have a voice for HR at these higher levels within the organization, but it really needs to be a powerful voice - a voice that can help to bring about the importance of this conversation. We've seen organizations try to address this kind of top-down change in a lot of different types of ways - so for instance we've seen in Europe, in certain states like California where you're adding diversity requirements to corporate boards and these are instances where you've looked and seen systematic discrimination that is just so extreme that governments for instance are saying we have to implement a quota system - in part because board seats you just don't have a lot of turnover - so adding right for instance a female to corporate boards in California has been researched and shown that this is going to have financial benefits for organizations but also benefits for society more broadly and for stakeholders at even more entry-level positions. So you know I think that the top down is kind of a quicker fix - or at least it's perceived that way - but like I said I do think everyone needs to be involved because we've also seen benefits to the the bottom-up approach as well and I think having everybody involved in this conversation is going to have a lot of benefits for creating change. So while everybody needs to be involved in the solution, I'm curious as to whether there's some specific actionable steps male leaders can take to improve gender inequality since they are in those sort of gatekeeper roles. Yeah this is a great question. So in addition to some of the formal processes that both George and I have talked about, there are a few key things that in particular male leaders and and all leaders but well focus on men in this this conversation can do to disrupt some of these biases that occur in informal situations where a lot of assessments of confidence are oftentimes take place - such as in meetings or in informal conversations. So social psychology research is really clear in showing that in mixed-gender settings - so when both men and women are present - that men tend to take up more conversational space. In fact, some social psych research shows that for men and women to talk an equal amount of time in a context women need to be 80 of the people in the room. So that's pretty - pretty stark. And so one of the the basic things that men can start doing is listening more - actually taking up less conversational space. As well as encouraging women's remarks and championing their remarks. Other research is very clear on this and that status matters in terms of whose idea is more likely to be taken up by the group and whose idea is more likely to be given credit or competent - be assumed confident, a good idea and so you know if women are getting kind of this feedback loop that if their ideas are more likely to be critiqued, they're more likely to be interrupted. It creates an environment where women are more hesitant to potentially put forth their ideas because they've seen this before - that they know that their ideas are going to get less traction in the group and so you're missing out on really important and valuable contributions. And so this is really on all people but potentially - really men leaders to make sure that everybody's contributing in conversations, that women are feeling that their ideas are getting traction within groups. Other - a couple other things i'll mention is taking assessment of your own network. Research on social networks suggests that men tend to have higher status networks and this is in part because of homophily - so if men tend to be in higher status positions it means that they tend to have access to better information about job opportunities or special assignments. So if you're a male leader to make sure that you're distributing this information equally among the genders, as well as diverse racial groups in addition. And then the last thing I will say is that practicing and showing support for family-friendly organizational policies and actually using those policies yourself. The research on on paternity leave shows quite clearly that on average men take less than two weeks for paternity leave leave in the United States. This is in part because they oftentimes don't have access to paid leave, but even when men do - they're far less likely to actually take paternity leave and so what this does is that it shifts the burden to predominantly indicate that caretaking is the responsibility of women. And so actually modeling this behavior, talking about your family, supporting family-friendly policies and flexible work environments within your own culture will go a long way to actually support families and both men and women who obviously have lives outside of their workplace. Yeah and I'd like to just add one point to what Jill said about dominating conversation space - like obviously right now we're going through a pandemic, where a lot of conversations are happening through Zoom. Anyone who's been a part of you know a Zoom or Google Hangout meeting knows that it's a little hard sometimes not to talk over each other - not to interrupt people - so you could see this problem potentially being exacerbated in some of these these virtual meetings and there's overwhelming evidence that leader emergence is related to talking time which is kind of funny that in some ways it's that simple. But you could imagine if you have men that are dominating the conversation, they're naturally going to be recognized more clearly as leaders, be perceived as the prototypical leader if they're dominating the conversation space. So a tactic as simple as saying at the start of a meeting, I'd like to hear from everybody, we want to hear everyone's voice, and then calling out on people like Jill said - I haven't heard from you yet I'd love to hear your thoughts - we're saying that was a really great point I I think maybe you got cut off or didn't get a chance to finish your thought and returning back to that conversation point and giving credit to that person and showing that you value what they have to say - I mean they seem like they're very small kind of techniques or like how could this really make a difference but like we said these small changes really do signal how much you value other people's contributions - and really from a performance standpoint - is going to be advantageous because you're getting everybody involved and you're hearing from everybody and again - Zoom context - we know how easy it is to kind of just maybe sit there checking your email and kind of not get as engaged or maybe you are trying to get engaged but everyone's talking and it's kind of hard to kind of - you don't want to be rude to interrupt somebody else - so doing those those small techniques especially in the virtual context I think could be really powerful. In January, Kamala Harris is set to become the first woman - first black person and Asian American- to become vice president. What does this moment mean for women and people of color? Jeff, I think it's an incredible accomplishment - as we've highlighted throughout our conversation today - change has been slow. It's been painfully slow. And when you actually look at some of the trajectories for the rate that we're going to address some of the issues we've been talking about this conversation it's really sad. I think when you look at the gender wage gap and how that's plateaued and especially once you look at intersectionality and the gap for instance between not just women and men but particularly women of color, hispanic women of color - Jill might know the statistic off the top my head - but I some of the data Ive seen suggested it might be 100, 200 years at the pace that we're going at before some of these things are addressed. And it shows that it's really hard to create positive change, and so to have someone in high profile leadership position that demonstrates that and truly signals that you can accomplish high levels of leadership - a high level leadership position is going to say a lot to a lot of other people that are aspiring to be in similar positions. As we've talked about today, just think about a typical business organization, so to see someone in that context for instance achieve a high level leader position is going to have a lot of benefits - this kind of idea of top down - and in some instances where you showed that you can achieve success and that you might actually be able to continue to raise awareness about a lot of what we've been talking about today. So, it means a lot from a symbolic perspective but I think more tangibly it can also help to create really positive change. What can our listeners do to reduce gender inequality in their workplace? Whether they're top of house, bottom of house, whatever their role. What we've been saying has just only been magnified because of the pandemic and that organizations really need to take a hard look - now more than ever - to think about how they can address some of these issues. Yeah and to piggyback on that great response, some of the more basic things that people can start doing right now is advocating for policy change within their organizations, voting for politicians who support family work policies, equally sharing domestic labor within their own homes - this is particularly kind of aimed at men in which we know that they still do far less on average in housework and child care than women, even when both partners work full-time, participating in engaging in diversity efforts - this is true for both men and women, showing up - increasing your own knowledge on these issues. But, ultimately we are talking about big, structural, organizational change that these are big issues that our leaders really need to take on and actually pass major legislation to jump-start progress. So I mean I think that we need to go to these big structural changes and really hope that it will start to jumpstart some of this progress for gender, race and class inequality. Thanks so much for your time today, George and Jill. In our next episode, well learn how UNC Charlotte researchers are using artificial intelligence and data to address challenges in the Queen City and beyond. Learn more or listen to previous episodes at belkcollege.uncc.edu/buzz B-U-Z-Z This is Charlotte Business Buzz. Connecting Charlotte business through one-on-one interviews with UNC Charlotte faculty, staff, alumni and industry partners, presented by the Belk College of Business and produced in association with University Communications.