Business Must Deal With Women's Concerns

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Women's issues

As the inauguration of the 45th president looms, it's easy to dismiss the Women's March on Washington, but business must address this and other women's issues.

We live in challenging times. Society is more polarized than ever, and dialog between political parties and individuals is too often corrosive and caustic. So, as the inauguration of the 45th president looms, it's easy to dismiss the Women's March on Washington as just another heaping dose of politics.

Do so at your own risk. Gender strategist Jeffery Tobias Halter, president of corporate gender consulting firm YWomen and author of Why Women: The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men, argues that it's critical for companies to address both the march and the call for a strike on January 20 and 21. Moreover, it's vital to consider how to best manage business operations under the new administration.

Halter says that women are past the tipping point both at home and in the workplace. In the case of business and IT, there's a war for female talent and leadership. Yet, while the data is overwhelming and virtually everyone acknowledges the issue, a wage gap and perceived lack of support persists.

Women in many other industrialized countries enjoy nationalized childcare, living wage provisions and extended paid maternity leave. (Some countries also offer paid paternity leave.) But the U.S. has none of those benefits.

What has been missing in the fight for workplace equality, Halter says, is a flashpoint. Enter the new administration. The change in Washington may toss kerosene on an already smoldering fire.

There are numerous repercussions for businesses and IT departments. One of the main issues, according to Halter, is that companies aren't ready to have this conversation. In fact, most business leaders aren't prepared for what lies ahead, especially as the future demographics of the workplace shifts toward more women and minorities.

Halter has worked with companies such as McDonald's, Deloitte, Publicis Groupe and GE to develop and refine gender strategies. He says that companies must address the strike and the Women's March on Washington (and more than 600 "Sister Marches" around the world.) "Whether you send a memo, an email, or hold a meeting, give employees the option to travel to Washington if they want to attend the March—or the Inauguration," he argues.

Of course, it's unwise to stop there. Organizations must look for new ways to recruit, retain and nurture female talent. Business and IT leaders who downplay this movement—perhaps insurgency is a better word—will likely find it harder to keep up with the pace of technology advances.

The voice of women isn't going away.

This article was originally published on 2017-01-18
Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).
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