We have a problem. Over 80 – 100 millions young women are missing globally every year.
How does this relate to leadership?
Whatever is happening in the larger system shows up in the smaller systems. Whatever’s happening in the wider society, it is happening in our workplaces.
Women are missing and dying in the wider society and they are missing and are dying at workplaces.
What do I mean by that?
We can look at a registration in the University of the West Indies. In 2017 women comprised 68 percent of enrolment across the Caribbean. Yet when we look at the highest ranks at the workplace, it doesn’t seem as if women exist. In fact, they are missing.
A 2018 Deloitte study showed that only 14% of board seats in the Caribbean were occupied by women. That same study showed that only 1.7% of board chairpersons were women. Globally 17% of board seats are occupied by women and 5% of board chairs are occupied by women.
We are missing.
We are dying.
We have a problem.
Our women are missing at the board and executive levels, even though we occupy most of the managerial and supervisory positions in organizations,
it’s a huge issue for me and it is a huge issue for all of us.
Men and women are unaware of the gravity of the situation.
I was facilitating a strategic planning session with an executive team and the members of that team proudly stated that in that company there was no problem with female leaders. The executives boasted that more than 50 percent of their managers were, female. I invited the executive team to look around the table and as they did, they realized that of the 20 executives around the table, only three were female. That is, 15 percent of the executive team will female.
- How do we treat women in our organization?
- How is it that we are good enough to be managers and we’re not good enough to get into the boardroom?
Women go missing when we enter organizations and we have horrible experiences. Almost every woman I know has a tale of an unwanted or uninvited sexual advance, or heard an unnecessary comment about their physical attributes whether or not the comment was directed towards her. Some tell stories of men brushing past them, and one woman told me her superior locked the door behind them and proceeded to physically attack her.
Women go missing, when we take maternity leave. Some organizations go so far as to police the amount of children that women can have over a stated period of time. It wasn’t too long ago that local banks, stipulated that women can’t have more than two children and five years.
Women lose their place when they choose to actively participate in their children’s lives, when they choose to attend school functions or when they choose to not work overtime. They are not given promotions and they are not given the sexy projects.
Then we wonder why the brilliant young women who walk into our organizations don’t shine.
They don’t shine because they don’t feel safe.
They don’t shine because they are afraid to be seen and they do not want to be heard.
They don’t shine because they want to stay invisible
They don’t shine because they want to stay in their lane
They don’t shine because it’s really scary to step out.
How do we change this?
I want you to think about it
I want you to think about it in your organization and think about the reasons why these women are missing.
Women die many small deaths when we suffer several small indignities that add up at the workplace.
When we are subjected to mansplaining – when men take their time to explain to us in condescending tones to tell us exactly what we know. This makes us feel terribly small and we slowly die.
We are killed in offices when we do not get credit for our work. I’ve sat around the executive table and pitched an idea, that no one heard. Then a man repeats my same idea and he gets credit for it.
Of course we die when we are harassed.
What remedies are there at your workplace to make sure that this brilliant woman who walk through our doors does not go missing or die slow deaths?
It sounds really dramatic and it’s not.
I will ask you female readers, have you died any small deaths at the hands of your male colleagues?
Male readers, have you ever been the reason why a young woman in an office goes missing?
What are the remedies for this?
We don’t have to look for as a country for solutions.
India, Israel, Pakistan – have mandated into law that there must be one female board member for publicly listed companies.
Australia and Norway mandate that females must constitute 30 percent of boards.. Around the world, governments have mandated quotas for female representation on both state/ public boards and companies that are listed on the stock exchange.
What would it be like if all governments mandated female quotas for boards?
I think it will send a strong message about female equity.
It will send a strong message that there is no glass ceiling
This will make sure that a lot of women are not missing, that they are seen and heard.
There is a call for harassment policies to be put in place in organizations and for these to be enforced that women are not penalized for blowing the whistle.
Women be each other’s keeper. Don’t turn a blind eye when you know someone is being harassed at the workplace. If you see it happening, blow the whistle, speak up, speak to the person who is being harassed and create safety for other women.
Women. When it happens to you, speak up. You are probably not the only person to whom it is happening.
Men, I know that they are those of you who support women, you exist. Then you need to act. You need to stand up. You need to say, hey, she said that when ideas are stolen, You need to ensure that your female colleagues get the credit for what they have done.
Women, those of you who are on boards, throw down the ladder to others when there is a board position open, recommend another woman, share your networks, share your opportunities and help young woman enter the space.
In organizations we learned from covid-19.
We can allow mothers to work from home, especially those with young children or we can implement flexible hours.
We women are smart, we are intelligent, we want to work. So stop putting limits on us. That’s my show for today. Let us stand up, raise our hands, to raise our voices and choose to challenge.
I invite you the annual Gestalt Leadership Conference, which takes place on April 29th, 2021. It is a virtual event. The theme is Leading with Equity. Learn more and register at maxineattong.com