EqualiSea

The Pulse on Gender Equity in Seattle & Beyond

Gender pay gap

Ruchika Tulshyan thinks it’s time to turn the tables.

Gender Equality Overall, SeattleMartha BurwellComment

For far too long we’ve been putting the work of achieving gender equality in the workplace on women.


I’ll admit it.  I’ve gone to more than one “how to negotiate” workshop. 

I can do power poses like no one’s business.  Strong eye contact, shoulders back, spine straight.  But also making sure to sit at a slight angle so I don’t look “too aggressive.” Staring at myself awkwardly in the mirror, I’ve practiced comebacks for common arguments as to why I should be paid less.  And I’ve even used cute phrases like “wiggle room” to soften the blow of –-gasp—a woman asking to be paid more!

But the truth is, I can do power poses for the rest of my life and I still won’t be paid the same as my male counterparts.  Because individuals can only get so far within a system that’s constantly pushing back on them.

As Ruchika Tulshyan writes in her new book, The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, “too much of the existing narrative focuses on ‘fixing women’—getting more women to negotiate, assert, demand, be confident and ‘lean in’ to leadership.”

Author Ruchika Tulshyan   Photo by  Jama Abdirahman

Author Ruchika Tulshyan
Photo by Jama Abdirahman

Instead, if we take a closer look, we see that gender inequality is something that we unintentionally built right into the structures of our businesses.  With the example of negotiation, we know that we have social stigma against women asking for more money.  But we keep salaries secret, we keep requiring employees to negotiate, and we keep penalizing women for it. 

Perhaps we’re ready turn the tables, to evolve our workplaces so that they work for women, as well as men.  Because our old systems were designed for a different time, and a different workforce.  And frankly, we’ve outgrown them.

That doesn’t mean that we have to demolish our way of doing business altogether—but we do need to be open to a steady stream of renovations. 

The good news?  These investments will also benefit the business.

This is what Tulshyan calls “The Diversity Advantage.”  It’s the idea that “diversity isn’t just the right thing to do.  It’s also a financially savvy strategy in today’s hyper-competitive digital marketplace.”

Tulshyan’s 2015 ebook guides the reader through the many deeply-ingrained, but often unintentional, ways that businesses disadvantage women.  Being solution-oriented, it also offers a gold mine of ideas for correcting this, so that the companies may tap into the full potential of the talent of 50% of the population.

Last month, I had the chance to sit down with the Seattle author, and ask her a few questions about some of the themes in her book. 

We started with one of the most-publicized effects of gender inequality in the workplace—the gender pay gap.

The book states “one of the biggest obstacles to resolving the gender pay gap is denial.”  Yet there is so much evidence on the systemic gender pay gap. Why are people still in denial? 

Right now, a lot of businesses are still run by middle-aged, or older, white men.  And from their point of view, they see that there are more women in the workforce than there were previously.  Which is true, but the problem is that they are concentrated in lower-level jobs.  The higher up you get in leadership, the fewer women there are.  And many leaders don’t look hard enough to see this, or don’t question why, and decide to prioritize other things.  

They also may tend to think that the lack of women in leadership roles is a result of individual choices.  But in reality, this has been disproved time and again.

Or, they assume that they themselves are not sexist, and no one they work with is sexist, so they jump to the conclusion that they’re not doing anything wrong.  They may not understand the implicit biases that we all hold. 

So it really comes down to a lack of knowledge and understanding about the actual situation.  They need to understand that it is a priority that impacts the performance of the entire business.

The book demonstrates how pay secrecy is harmful to reaching pay equality, advocating instead for more pay transparency.  Right now, in Washington state legislature, we have a bill being considered that would make it illegal for employers to punish their employees for discussing wages.  Would this new law be enough?

This is a first step, but it’s not enough. 

We are very uncomfortable talking about money in this culture.  In fact, we’d rather talk about relationships and sex at work than talk about money! 

Until we have a cultural shift in which it becomes less of a taboo to discuss salaries, we’re still not going to see a lot of pay transparency.  Businesses can address this by slowly phasing in transparency, or at the very least taking a comprehensive look at how they are currently paying their employees. 

When it comes to supporting parents, the book states “the most impactful solutions are initiatives and policies that benefit both genders such as paid leave, flexibility, and child care support.”  Why is that the case?

It’s been well documented that creating benefits that are only for women actually harms women, because it treats them like a special population.  So the businesses will start to discriminate against them because they now come with additional expenses.  So instead, those benefits should be for all employees. 

Another reason has to do with millennials, who will soon be the largest demographic in the workforce. Both male and female millennials have shown time and again that they value those types of benefits, demonstrating that businesses must provide them if they want to be able to attract and retain talent.

Lastly, in order to truly make change, we need a cultural shift about who’s doing the caretaking and the homemaking.  Right now, women still shoulder most of that work, and it is a big burden.   We must culturally start allowing, or requiring, men to take on some of that burden.  So making these types of policies accessible to men helps achieve that.

Sponsorship is something the book advocates highly for.  What is sponsorship and how can it be implemented successfully? 

First of all, sponsorship is very different from mentorship. A mentor is generally someone who you meet with occasionally and get guidance from. A sponsor, in contrast, is someone who is in a more senior position that works with you to strategically advance your career, using his or her own reputation and connections to help you move forward.

However, a sponsor may not understand the nuances of gender.   And as more sponsors will be male, simply because there are so many more men in top leadership positions in business, it’s important that we consider gender training with sponsorships. 

For example, in many companies, networking and relationship building among leadership still occurs after hours over dinner and drinks.  This is part of what’s considered the “old boys club.”  But, if a (typically younger) female protégée is invited by her (typically older) male sponsor to these events, it is often perceived very negatively, and it can actually harm her career.  To avoid these types of situations, it’s recommended to create a more formal sponsorship program that includes guidelines and training around gender.  Formal programs also help create accountability by having points at which other leaders check in to see if the sponsor is successfully helping the protégée meet her career advancement goals.    

There are quite a few countries in Europe, and several in Asia, as well as India, that have legally mandated gender quotas for corporate boards.  In the book, it states that quotas do have some effect, but that there are other ways to get more women on boards that are more effective.  What are the recommendations?

Quotas have their ups and down.  On the one hand, they are useful in that they provide accountability.   It’s too easy for a company, without quotas, to say “we tried it and it didn’t work.” A quota requires that they keep trying.  Facebook is a surprising example.  They have only 2 women on their board, and no women of color.  This seems odd, because the most rapidly growing segments of their market are overseas, and they could clearly use diverse leadership to help understand those markets.  Facebook does not utilize quotas.

On the other hand, quotas are not enough.  There also has to be a cultural shift. 

Otherwise you may see something like what happened in Norway, in which the same few women are asked to be on 4, 5, or more boards, and most women still don’t have access.  Lastly, women are much more likely to stay on boards if there is a culture that makes them feel welcome in a leadership position. 

Here in the US, we are culturally quite far away from having legally mandated quotas. In fact, we have a Supreme Court case this year that will question whether affirmative action (which quotas fall under) is even constitutional.  Why is there such a difference between attitudes about quotas in the US, as compared to other countries?

We believe in the US that we have a meritocracy, where anyone who works hard enough will achieve success.  It’s the American Dream.  But that is simply not true for everyone.  That mindset ignores the systematic oppression that is present in our society, and fails to recognize that only some people can participate fully in our “meritocracy,” and those people happen to be mostly white men.  

We are uncomfortable with the fact that our belief in meritocracy may be an illusion, because it challenges the idea that those white men achieved success based solely on their own talent. 

The introduction to the book states “make no mistake: this is no feminist manifesto.  Sure, gender equality is a human rights issue. But engaging women in the workforce is primarily an economic issue.  Diverse leaders drive bottom-line growth and high-level innovation for global corporations.” 
After reading the book, I’d argue that it IS a feminist manifesto, as well as an economic argument.  So I’m curious why this disclaimer was included.

The book was also meant to appeal to men, so that phrase was included to emphasize that the book is first and foremost an economic argument. 

We must have men participate in this movement in order for it to be successful. There isn’t a case in history in which an oppressed group has overcome oppression without the participation of those in power. 

The only exceptions are when extreme violence was used.  In the case of gender equality, men are still largely in power, and they must participate as allies in order for us all to succeed.


Lastly, Ruchika noted that compared to other places she’s lived in (The UK, India and Singapore), in our Seattle culture, we tend to avoid tough topics like this.

But Seattle, we’ve got to talk about it.  And more than that, we’ve got to take responsibility and act on improving gender equality in the workplace.  If the ethical case doesn’t sway you, the business case can’t be ignored. 

You can purchase Ruchika’s book on Forbes.  A paper version will also be available soon. 


Newsflash: PayScale Releases Big Data on Gender Pay Gap

Seattle, Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

From Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, “Awkard Black Girl” to NBA Cheerleaders, people have been talking about the gender pay gap

Now, we’ve got some new numbers to arm ourselves with when your coworker says women get paid less because of their individual choices.   

Seattle-based PayScale.com just released a study on the gender pay gap, in which they drew from their large database of salary information to compile data from 1.4 million full-time employees in the U.S. 

The report used a proprietary algorithm to compare wages between women and men based on industry, marital status, whether they were parents, and other variables. This information was taken from survey results that full-time workers submitted over the last 2 years. 

Though much of the data confirmed what we already know, there were some interesting, if disheartening new statistics. 

" Lucie & ses parents-4 " by  Thomas Sauzedde  is  is   licensed under   CC BY 2.0.

For example, it’s known that being married and having children unfairly penalizes women in the workforce.  But did you also know that a family actually gives a career boost to men? The PayScale data shows that married men with children were the highest wage earners in the country ($67,900 for married men with children, $60,800 for those without children), while single mothers earn the lowest wages in the country.  Those that need the pay the most earn the least.

 

Yet strangely, the data also showed that men prioritize home and family responsibilities more often than women.  How could this be? We know that women still spend more working hours each year taking care of children and family obligations.  But remember, the PayScale data was based on survey responses.  The answer becomes clear in another piece of information: “The more often a woman tells us that she prioritizes home/family over work, the larger the controlled gender pay gap becomes, even when compared to men with similar characteristics who say they prioritize home/family over work with the same frequency.” 

Ah.  There it is.  Women cannot even say that they would prioritize their family if they had to, because they are penalized for it. 

Unsurprisingly, some of the industries with the highest gender pay gap were male dominated ones such as mining, oil and gas extraction, and forestry.  Yet even within female-dominated industries such as health care and social assistance (79% women), there still exists a large pay gap. This reflects how we devalue women’s work overall as a society, regardless of the industry.  Currently, the PayScale data showed a 24.3% “uncontrolled” pay gap, and a 1.7% “controlled” pay gap for healthcare.

1.7 percent! That doesn’t seem so bad, does it?  Let’s take a look at what that actually means.   PayScale offered two data sets for each item they examined.  One was “uncontrolled” in which they simply looked at all full-time wages, regardless of job level, experience, etc.  The other was “controlled” in which they only compared wages that had the same job level and experience.  It’s tempting to want to celebrate the smaller wage gap for the controlled data.  However, it does not communicate one very critical point: much of the wage gap exists because women are blocked from advancing into higher positions.  It also misses out on the fact that jobs of equal skill and education level are valued less if they are jobs traditionally held by women.  So the uncontrolled data shows what women’s wages are in a more complete sense.

Another finding new to me was the age at which worker’s pay plateaus.  From our first jobs, our wages continue to increase until we reach a certain age, when they flatten out or even drop.  According to PayScale, men can expect their wages to keep increasing until they are 50-55, while women, shockingly, can only expect their pay to rise until they are 35-40.  What does this say about how we value women as they age, compared to men? 

Finally, I wonder if the data includes the most marginalized industries, which are often female-dominated, and/or have a majority of people of color, such as housekeeping and home care.  Does the data include those pieces of the population?  Who don't have access to the PayScale survey, don't speak English, or don't use a computer?

However, the big data PayScale compiled is still telling. So what do we do with it?  How can we use it to make the pay gap smaller? 

It should be seen as a wake-up call.  We tend to think that we are somehow ‘past’ the gender pay gap.  That it’s a choice.  That women should just work harder or be more confident.  But this data shows that it’s much, much more than a personal journey.  It’s an enormous, ingrained bias that we all hold (women too!).  But even more so, it's our systems and the way our businesses and industries are defined. This data helps us understand the pay gap in our own industries.  So how about instead of changing the women, we upgrade the workplace?  Other developed countries are doing this with practical things like paid family leave (not just maternal leave), more time off, better benefits, and affordable childcare.  We could utilize 'unconscious bias training' and hiring techniques to diversify leadership roles. The U.S. is still lagging behind.  But if our labor laws aren’t changing fast enough, individual businesses can step up and implement change themselves.  Because it’s not just the right thing to do.  It’s also good for business

To view PayScale’s report, visit http://www.payscale.com/data-packages/gender-pay-gap


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Why I'm voting for Kshama Sawant

SeattleMartha BurwellComment

The posters are everywhere.

On lamp posts, windows and trees. The volunteers are knocking on doors, the signs are stuck into neighbor’s lawns, flower beds and any spare patch of grass.  Gonzales! O’Brien! Weatbrook! Sawant! Juarez! Maddux! They scream, demanding our attention.

And that can only mean one thing: It’s that time again, it’s election time!

(c) Martha Burwell

(c) Martha Burwell

Throughout the year, to help us get to know our candidates better, I have spoken with several councilmembers and candidates on gender equity in Seattle.  Earlier this summer, I had a chance to talk to Kshama Sawant, who’s running for reelection in District 3 (East Central Seattle).

We began with a status update—how is Seattle doing currently?  She responded with a theme I’ve heard from quite a few leaders: Though we view ourselves as progressive, it’s clear “how much of a challenge Seattle still has to rise to in order to make this a city where women are treated equal to men.”   In other words, “there’s a gap between what we want or expect Seattle to be, and (…) the reality.”  And a part of the solution, she urged, is to have Seattle City Council members “who are genuinely going to be beholden to the needs of women, people of color, and everyone who’s marginalized, rather than (…) big businesses.”

“If you’re elected again,” I asked, “What’s one issue related to gender equality that you would address?”

“I don’t think any one thing by itself will address the social issues that we are discussing,” she started.  “When you have a city like Seattle which is extremely wealthy, and at the same time has this stunning wealth and income inequality (…) it hits women the hardest.  It hits single mom households the hardest. It hits people of color the hardest.  It hits women of color, the trans community, the LGBTQ community the hardest.”

Kshama Sawant , used with permission

Kshama Sawant, used with permission

So, there's no silver bullet, no magic panacea, rather we will have to see dramatic and sweeping changes before Seattle comes anywhere close to achieving true gender equity.

She gave an example, however, of how we have recently made some first tentative steps in this direction: earlier this year Seattle passed a 4 week paid parental leave policy for public city employees.  In Sawant’s words, this is a start, but “In 2015, we’re just implementing basic rights for parents to care for their children (….) and if you talk to anyone raising children, they’ll tell you that four weeks is nowhere near close enough.”

What would she do about this in her second term?

Twelve weeks of paid parental leave for all of Seattle’s workers,” she stated without hesitation. “I don’t care whether you are CEO or a cashier at QFC.  You should have all those basic human rights.  And paid parental leave of a sizable number of days is absolutely a human right.”

And the key term here is “parental leave,” because “we don’t want to have a future vision of society which pushes all the burden of raising a family only on women.  We want to have a cultural reawakening of our society where we view familial responsibilities and the organization of society itself in an equal way.”

Zoom that example out to the big-scale picture.  If we’re talking seriously about gender equity, she argued, then we need “a larger support structure for all the families in Seattle, all the people in Seattle.”  We need a “socializing of the burden that falls on individual families,” she explained. 

A socializing of the burden What does this mean? One thing it means is “full funding of all social services and mental health services (…) a social safety net for those who are on the brink of homelessness, those who are experiencing sudden job loss, those who have other financial setbacks.” 

She continued: “This would also encompass services for women who might be experiencing violence (…) and are looking for a way out of that. (…) Research has shown that women remain in relationships they should be free of because they are concerned about the lack of financial support structure, especially if they have children. So it’s absolutely critical that our society provides that network of support structure.”

I agree, nodding my head. Our safety nets are sorely lacking for women, especially those women who are most vulnerable, women who are the victims of domestic violence or who are pushed to homelessness after losing their already low-paying jobs.   But how would we pay for this, I wondered. How would we pay for all of these services that we need so badly? “Progressive taxation,’ replied Sawant, immediately.  “This is a state that has the most regressive tax system.  That hits women the hardest.  Women-headed households are some of the most poverty stricken, some of the lowest income households, partly as a consequence of the gender pay gap, partly because of other issues.  There’s systemic, intergenerational poverty.”  To combat this, “we need to tax the super-wealthy and big businesses to fund these social services.”  

Used with permission

Used with permission

And it was hard not to see the sense of Sawant’s points; tech-heavy Seattle has a few people who could probably afford to pay a little more to the taxman.

Throughout our conversation, and indeed most times that I’ve seen Sawant speak, she always returned to how all our social movements are, and must be, intrinsically connected.  She put it well when I asked her my final question, “what would you say to a young boy, and a young girl, who wants to become a city leader when they grow up?” 

“I would say the same thing to both, which is that regardless of your gender (…) we have to fight for the rights of all workers, together in solidarity,” you can’t just fight for yourself.  Yet at the same time, “you also have to realize that we have to fight against specific oppressions. For example, said Sawant, “if you’re committed to social justice, whether you’re a man or a woman, you have to be committed to fighting against sexism.”

After my conversation with Sawant, it was hard not to be impressed. She seemed to be saying the right things – and that’s important. Because by putting these issues on the table, in her loud, impossible to ignore manner, she is forcing everyone else to look at them too. In what is known as the overton window, or the “range of ideas that the public will accept,” she pushes the entire conversation towards the things that she cares about, which tend to be toward creating a more fair Seattle.

More importantly than saying the right things, during her time in office she has also seemed to be doing the right things, consistently pursuing policies related to social equity, many of which directly or indirectly improve gender equity.  One recent example is when she decided to annoy several rather high profile Seattleites by skipping a scheduled Rotary Club debate.  Instead, she attended a Columbia City protest against a profiteering landlord, standing up for the tenants, many of whom were low-income women and people of color, who are the most vulnerable to negative effects of rent increases.

Somehow I can’t imagine Pamela Banks doing the same…

And the conclusion?  Care about gender equity: Vote Kshama Sawant.


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For more opinions on Seattle City leaders, see my posts on Catherine Weatbrook, and Mike O'Brien (part 1 and part 2). 

Join EqualiSea founder for a free panel on strategically increasing diversity in business

Gender Equality OverallMartha BurwellComment

Join EqualiSea founder Martha Burwell at a free panel for Seattle Startup Week with 6 Seattleites who are experts on diversity, and learn how to make your startup or workplace welcoming and inclusive for all types of people.

When: Tuesday, October 27 3-4pm
Where: Seattle Impact Hub 220 2nd Ave South 98104 (main event space)
Cost: Free! But you must register in advance via Seattle Startup Week.

Good for Business and the World: Building Diversity into your startup

Data shows that having a diverse* team is good for both business and social equity.  Yet, it’s something that very rarely just happens.  Our unintentional default, in fact, tends to be to surround ourselves with people just like us—to stick to our social circles. 

Entrepreneurs have the unique opportunity to intentionally design their business foundation and culture to be welcoming and attractive to many types of people. This panel will discuss strategic ways to build inclusion into your new venture, from defining core values to hiring staff.  Join us – and let’s think outside of the circle. 

*our definition of diversity is broad, covering such areas as ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ, age, background, socioeconomic status, and more.

Moderator: Martha Burwell

Martha Burwell is an independent consultant who specializes in sustainable project design and gender-balanced teams. She is based in Seattle and works with nonprofits and small businesses. She also blogs about intersectional gender equity in Seattle at www.EqualiSea.org. An avid traveler, she’s visited over 30 countries and lived and volunteered in 4. See www.marthaburwell.com for more details.

 

Speakers:

Elayne Wylie

Elayne Wylie is an event producer, educator, and filmmaker who trains business professionals in workplace equality. Elayne has also served as the chair of the Seattle Regional Affiliate with Out & Equal, Workplace Equality Associates, and is the current Board Chair of Gender Justice League. She is also a professional filmmaker, trained at the UW in journalism and documentary film. She has a passion for volunteerism and community service, and enjoys roadtripping the Pacific Northwest.

 

 

Matthew EchoHawk-Hayashi

Matthew Hayashi is the principal organization development and leadership consultant for Headwater People. They help brilliant people do transformational work and offer a variety of strategic consulting services such as organization learning, strategic planning, change management, process design, and executive coaching. His passion is to help connect groups to the core mission of their work through collaborative and innovation and whole organizational health. Matthew and his wife and children make their home in Seattle, Washington.

Elizabeth Scallon

Elizabeth Scallon is the Associate Director of CoMotion Incubator for the University of Washington’s CoMotion, which focuses on nurturing UW startup companies from innovation to impact. Elizabeth spent part of her early career as a Lab Manager and Research Associate at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and more recently held a position as the Senior Operations Manager for VLST Corporation, a biotech firm in Seattle researching novel approaches to autoimmune diseases.
She holds volunteer position as the Chief Operations Officer for HiveBio Community Lab, Vice President of Pygmy Survival Alliance, and is on the Board of Trustees for the World Affairs Council of Seattle.

Ruchika Tulshyan

Ruchika Tulshyan is the author of The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality In The Workplace (Forbes, 2015). Ruchika co-found a business in Singapore, where she's from and also led content marketing strategy at a Seattle-based startup before deciding to get back to writing full-time. Her articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Time and Bloomberg, among other media. Ruchika has reported from six cities across four countries. She holds degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics.

Eric Osborne

Eric Osborne is Co-Founder of Here Seattle a non-profit networking and professional organization for underrepresented minorities.   He is actively working with minorities and companies within the tech and creative industries to create more opportunities and inclusion for underrepresented minorities in the Greater Seattle area.  He is transplant from Florida by way of Los Angeles and is an avid  reader, reading at least a book a week.

 

Is Seattle actually progressive? Catherine Weatbrook, City Council candidate, shares her thoughts.

SeattleMartha Burwell1 Comment

“One?  I have to pick just one?” she laughed. 

I was chatting with Catherine Weatbrook, who’s running for Seattle City Council district 6 (Ballard/Fremont/Greenlake), and had just asked her to tell me about one gender equality issue she would work on if she were elected.

It’s hard to choose just one issue, because when it comes to Seattle, Weatbrook argues, “We are so not progressive enough.  We talk a big game, but we don’t deliver.”