The man behind the cash desk
Last week I went to the supermarket with my children after school. They didn’t feel like it at all, but with a bleeper, with which they could scan the groceries, they enjoyed themselves for a while.
We couldn’t scan the loose ciabattas and I said: “that doesn’t matter, because we can ask the woman behind the cash desk.” My son asked: “Mommy, how do you know that there is a woman behind the cash desk, can’t it be a man?”
Pfff …. A clear case of gender stereotyping that my 6-year-old son pointed out to me after which I started a good conversation with him in the supermarket.
Children learn the social meanings of gender from us, adults, and the culture in which they grow up. Did you know gender stereotypes are defined between 5 and 7 years of age?
The following video, in which 3 women, a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot, enter a classroom, makes that painfully clear.
It starts in our youth. In our further lives these stereotypes are reinforced and ultimately become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You only see women behind the cash register, so it is ‘a job for women’. You mainly see male pilots, so it is ‘a job for men’.
Managerial positions are mainly occupied by men, so women often think they can’t achieve that.
In our society it is still natural that a woman takes on more care and household duties than a man.
“What are you going to do with your job?” colleagues asked me when I was pregnant with my first child. My husband didn’t get this question when he told at his work he was going to be a father.
The stereotypical image of an ambitious woman who wants to have a career is also rarely positive. She thinks too much about her work, she isn’t there for her children, she isn’t involved at school, etc.
And the stereotype of an ambitious man? He is successful, he has a great career, he takes good care of his family, etc.
This stereotyping gives women a sense of insecurity about their professional lives.
And that is reflected in the labor participation rate of women:
- In The Netherlands, 73% of the working women have a part-time job. The Dutchies are the leaders in the European Union. Austria and Germany follow at a considerable distance with a part-time percentage of 47%.
- In the UK, the employment rate of women with children is 14% lower compared to women without children.
This is a problem.
Not only because of the fact that women are not financially independent, but also for the future organizational performance.
Women make the difference
It’s no news anymore that organizations, which have diversity high on their agendas, achieve better results. They perform financially better and are a more interesting employer.
What I personally find even more interesting is the following.
Research by McKinsey & Company shows that to address the global challenges of the future, four leadership behaviours are seen as most effective:
- Defining expectations and responsibilities clearly and rewarding achievement of target.
- Presenting a compelling vision of the future and inspiring optimism about its implementation.
- Building a team atmosphere in which everyone is encouraged to participate in decision making.
- Challenging assumptions and encouraging risk taking and creativity.
Women apply the first three of these four leadership behaviours more frequently than men.
Make it business priority
Based on this, you would expect companies to have started working on gender diversity in recent years and are now achieving concrete results.
It appears that for example:
- The proportion of women at every level in corporate America has hardly changed between 2015 and 2018.
- In The Netherlands, the percentages of female directors and supervisory directors of the Dutch NVs (listed companies at the Euronext Amsterdam) have both remained exactly the same between 2017 and 2018, respectively 6% and 25%.
- 22% of the Dutch NV’s has no female director or female supervisory director.
This makes clear that reporting a company to be highly committed to gender diversity is not enough.
It is important that we offer women opportunities for growth, in all layers of organizations, from receptionist to personal assistant, from junior manager to senior manager. And that we support women to take these opportunities.
Simply put, make gender diversity the business priority it is.
The way to get started
Do you want to make the difference with gender diversity now and in the future? Then it is recommended to take the following actions3:
- Set goals, track and report on progress.
- Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair.
- Let senior leaders set the agenda and ensure that leaders at all levels are accountable for making progress.
- Foster an inclusive and respectful culture.
- Reduce the number of women who are ‘the only one in the team’.
- Offer employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives.
In need of support?
With She does it you can offer female talent within your organization the support they need to stay on the road of professional success.
This support consists of 3 elements:
- Individual coaching of the female employee
- Support for the manager
- Group coaching.
Here you can read more about it here
If you would like to discuss what She does it can do for women in your organization, please feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 7498 558006.
Women matter: Gender Diversity a Corporate Performance Driver, McKinsey & Company, 2007.
Women matter 2: Female leadership, a competitive edge for the future, McKinsey & Company, 2008.
Women in the workplace, McKinsey & Company, 2018.
The Dutch female board index 2018, Prof. dr. Mijntje Lückerath-Rovers, 2018.