Business Tips

How to Help Women in Business Get Past Gender Barriers to Management

According to a recent Women in the Workplace study from Lean In and McKinsey, the most significant barrier women face in business these days isn’t the glass ceiling. Instead, it’s the floor—the barrier to entry-level management positions.

Although women now own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. and are making great strides at the top of the career ladder, they’re still missing from entry-level and middle-management positions. That’s something companies of all sizes need to address.

Women in business mean greater success

It’s not just about diversity (although that’s a worthy goal in itself). Statistics suggest that hiring women for positions of leadership helps your company succeed. For example, one study from Peakon revealed that when a company’s management includes 50% or more women, its employees feel more loyal to the company and its products or services.

A 2017 Morgan Stanley report echoes these findings, suggesting that gender diversity in a company translates to enhanced productivity, more significant innovation in product and service design, improved decision-making, and decreased employee turnover, with an associated higher level of worker satisfaction.

Try implementing these three strategies to fix that broken rung at the bottom of the career ladder and get more women into entry-level management roles.

1. Start from the ground up.

As the Women in the Workplace study suggests, the first task for any business committed to helping increase the number of women in leadership positions is to hire and promote women more often.

Your job is to make your workplace more attractive to diverse candidates. Start with neutralizing your job notices and ads. Go over every ad line by line before you release or publicize an open position. Avoid potentially off-putting terms like “rock star” and “ninja.” Some of the more qualified female candidates might interpret those as code for “male candidates preferred.”

Also, consider following the example set by Buffer. Based on the understanding that women are far less likely than men to apply for a job if they don’t precisely match the image created by the ad, Buffer encourages all candidates to apply, even if they feel they don’t meet every single qualification.

If you want to reach more women candidates, consider going where they are. For example, open up your job search by sharing the job notice on platforms and websites with audiences with a significant female component.

2. Commit to taking action

Set actionable goals for both hiring and promoting women into first-level management. Clear establishment of metrics and a commitment to meeting those metrics can help foster positive change for your company as you seek to diversify its management.

For example, if there are two candidates, one male, and one female, the female candidate has a 50% chance of winning the job. However, if there are three female candidates and one male candidate, the possibility that one of those women will win the job goes up to 67%.

However, if you reverse that scenario, with three men and one woman, her chance of winning the job plummets. One way to combat this kind of unconscious bias is to set a concrete goal of advancing an equal number of men and women to the final round of evaluation. Creating this type of rule helps you see beyond mere lip service to the ideals of “promoting the qualified candidates” to truly evaluate your candidates based on their qualifications without unconscious bias.

Finally, seek to establish clear, neutral evaluation criteria. Ensure your hiring and promotion evaluation criteria are based on the actual duties required in the position, not on some outdated assessment that hasn’t been standardized and edited for gender neutrality.

3. Get to the root of unconscious bias.

Training evaluators and supervisors to spot and combat unconscious bias can help root out the obstacles to promoting women to leadership positions in your company. But how do you identify a bias when it’s not consciously held?

One way is to test your systems. For example, the next time your company is hiring for a potential leadership or feeder position and a female candidate is weeded out at a pre-interview stage, consider advancing her to the next round regardless. If she proves herself qualified at the interview based on the feedback you get, you might have some bias at work in your processes.

Additionally, implement committed-based evaluation processes. Groups with balanced representation can help root out and neutralize individual biases. At the same time, they can help provide a more robust assessment of each candidate’s strengths and challenges.

John Boitnott

John Boitnott graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Masters Degree in Education. He worked for 14 years as a broadcast news writer for ABC, NBC, and CBS News where he covered finance, business and real estate. He covered financial news for SAP for four years. Boitnott is now working as a columnist for The Motley Fool where he covers personal financial and investing strategies.

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John Boitnott

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