Women: Too Legit to Quit

These caramels are for you, Lilly Ledbetter.

An article published in a respected business journal reports women are less likely to interview for executive positions if rejected previously, which launched a firestorm of internal dialogue still irking me weeks later. While men also become more hesitant to try again, this study concludes women are more impacted because of fairness issues, having faced covert bias they are more doubtful about trying again. Admittedly, my reactions vacillated between furry and defeat yet finally landed on steadfast resilience, a renewed sense of confidence we are on the cusp of shattering age-old gender biases holding corporations back from reaching their highest potential.

If you are considering giving up on dreams of senior leadership, please reconsider because simply said you are too legit to quit! Feelings of hesitancy should be temporary, an interim rebuilding-phase not permanent setback. Further, a short-term recess to clean and repair your superhero suit is all that’s needed…. and recalibration of outdated gender mindsets, of course.

Don’t mistake resilience for naiveté. Undeniably, mountains of scientific evidence document prejudice perpetuating discrimination and unfairness will persist until enough collective momentum instigates change. Solution requires individual action and those with leadership authority acknowledging pervasive inequality, institution of training and policy as well as rigorous checks to correct disparity.

“Nobody has the right to devalue your contribution, unconsciously or flagrantly.”

Grit and resilience, business philosophy du jour, captivates audiences with you must work hard to succeed theory, highly appealing to the privileged believing success due solely to personal hard work without acknowledging a system designed in their favor. Shankar Vedantam, author of The Hidden Brain compares privilege to swimming with a strong ocean current, which allows one to perceive imaginary skills, while those swimming against the current/system must labor exponentially harder. Major system changes, with resolute countenance are necessary.

Susan Colantuono’s research challenges the notion women need more grit or self-confidence and explains how unconscious chauvinism keep women from receiving prudent business training and research from INSEAD uncovers pervasive yet unintentional requirement women in authority must be perceived as warm while male counterparts are not saddled with such expectation. Nonetheless, excellent management and leadership require Herculean fortitude so develop these skills rather than bow out.

On Grit and Resilience:

1. You’ve made it this far so no abandoning ship. An organization needs your game-changing influence, infectious passion and brilliant strategy. Further, consider overcoming disillusionment part of executive education.

2. Being temporarily overlooked provides opportunity for additional training or updating your resume.

3. Have a short break. If gutted, allow time to heal, smoldering in anger for a minute, but progress through the stages of grief as wallowing solves nothing. Hire a coach, find a guru, run 100 miles returning with tougher skin, new wisdom and strengthened empathy muscles.

4. Let go but don’t quit! Get back to preparing yourself for the next responsibility and increased contribution while planning for another interview.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Having covered pick yourself up and dust yourself off theory, let’s tackle, it’s not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR that women get the short end of the stick with opportunity and compensation. We are past due for sweeping reforms and if we all do something, we will advance progress:

System Changes:

1. Don’t pretend unfairness does not exist in your organization. HR cannot shoulder the entire burden so a call to action for all department heads is in order.

2. Education is key. A quick introduction to unconscious attitude is The Hidden Brain, which explains bias from a neuroscience perspective allowing for less defensiveness as we realized we are not consciously aware of many beliefs due to how our brains function. No excuses, but insightful new knowledge helps facilitate important conversation leading to epiphany.

3. Speak up for yourself and be an advocate for others. For example, practice amplification, the clever strategy of repeating what your colleagues say to give credit to the author of the idea provided to us by female staffers in the Obama administration.

4. Talk about unfairness openly in a professional manner intending to make your organization better. Ultimately, you may only change yourself and maybe a few people around you but every step toward fairness matters.

5. Schedule training. Ask what else your company can offer in terms of training.

6. Mentors/Coaches – Re-evaluate topics ferreting out gender disposition such as confidence and warmth guidance instead of business know-how.

7. Interview questions. When interviewing for your next job, ask about policy, programs and track records around pay equality and number of women in leadership roles.

Why should you give your talent to an organization that intends to undervalue your work because they deem unconscious bias admissible?

Finally, future business training should include significant study of personal bias so leaders evaluate their hidden mindsets and take corrective action to make sure their businesses stay competitive. Let’s remain resilient and action-oriented to ensure Millennials and Gen Z operate in a business environment that values everyone’s contributions equally.

Please share your ideas of how to close the wage and leadership gap.

A recipe for Salted Caramel Candy.

Disclaimer: The story and recipe above should not be considered advice as the readers and users of Chocolate Cake Mondays are not clients and therefore CCM is not liable for reader’s reliance on the information herein.