Every day, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers are retiring. The incoming talent pool of millennials with advanced education is made up of more women than men. Not only are women highly qualified for jobs, they also make up the overwhelming majority of a household’s purchasing decisions.
And yet, “companies still treat women like a niche,” says Jeffery Tobias Halter, formerly of The Coca-Cola Company.
Halter is baffled by this. Can you blame him?
Despite all the data that points to stronger performance when companies hire and retain women, we still see a gender wage gap, a lack of proper female representation in leadership positions, and, according to Halter, unconscious bias in the workplace.
Author of the book Why Women, which engages men to advance women within their companies, and owner of the gender strategy consulting firm, YWomen, Halter says he can help companies “get unstuck.” That is, unstuck from stagnant profit streams, unstuck from sluggish growth.
The case for men to get involved
Halter says he has heard the critics of his method, those who believe women shouldn’t rely on men to earn their promotions and opportunities. Why should I help a woman achieve a position I worked hard to get? If only women would work harder, they say, we wouldn’t have to sit through these gender equality workshops.
Halter sees a problem with that logic. Women already are working for their opportunities. More learning materials are available than ever before to educate women on how they can grab hold of their futures. Thanks to the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, women have incredible role models to follow down this path.
And yet (say it with me this time), companies still treat women like a niche.
“At some point we need to recognize that more of the same won’t yield the desired results and eradicate the inequities that exist in the current corporate culture,” Halter says.
What’s going to move the needle? Halter argues companies are in need of integrated strategies that touch all departments and all genders.
“This is why male engagement and sponsorship is so critical.”
Steps men can take to help advance women
In his experiences coaching men in strategies to hire and retain more women, Halter learned that most of the men didn’t relate the incentive of carrying out these strategies to their own personal lives. So, he created the Father of a Daughter Initiative, which helps men understand the greater impact of this work. By becoming an advocate for women, they are encouraging their daughters, wives, aunts and sisters.
“What is interesting is I estimate up to 30% of men actually want to support women, but most really don’t know what it looks like.”
Through the Initiative, Halter provides these 10 steps to help men get started:
- Seek to understand by having a candid conversation with a female co-worker. Listen to her experiences as a woman at your company.
- Mentor and sponsor a female co-worker.
- Create a business case for why your department should champion women; discuss this topic at your monthly team meetings during the year.
- Champion gender pay equity by learning more at your company and working toward correcting any issues that you identify.
- Set an example to correct bias.
- Support workplace flexibility for all employees.
- Offer encouragement to take risks and to volunteer for stretch assignments.
- Encourage qualified women to apply for positions when they become available.
- Engage other men to get involved.
- Be visible by attending group meetings and events.
Signs your company may have unconscious bias
When it’s hard for men to recognize whether their company has a problem supporting women’s advancement, Halter often encourages them to look at voluntary turnover rates.
“The number one reason women leave companies is lack of flexibility, yet they don’t tell their company because they assume the company will do nothing. They will say they are leaving to spend more time with their family, yet within six months, they are back at work, either for themselves or for a better employer.”
Halter knows how to connect with men who are unaware about their role in gender diversity, because he used to be one of them. He describes his turning point as a “white male epiphany,” during which he realized what it means to be privileged.
It occurred when he was working as a corporate head of sales training at a company that was facing a lawsuit. When he was tapped to lead diversity education, he realized he also had a lot to learn.
“I didn’t think the company had a diversity problem, until I sat in on a couple of diversity classes and heard stories of racism and sexism,” Halter says.
Halter went on to work for The Coca-Cola Company as the Director of Diversity Strategy before he started his own gender strategy consulting firm, YWomen.