Huge news for women in business! Last week it was announced that in 2015, five percent of government federal contracts were granted to women-owned business. This goal was established in 1994, and it’s taken 21 years to finally achieve it.
Professional women’s organizations are making a concerted effort to advocate for greater gender equality in the public-policy arena. Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) is a coalition of 4.7 million women business owners and 78 organizations actively addressing changes to the Small Business Administration’s revision of the certification process for Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program. Red212 CEO Anne Chambers is an active WIPP National Partner.
Another significant challenge they’re fighting is the everyday gender inequality in the workplace. Individual companies can dismantle internal inequities when they recognize problems, and the easiest way to find them is by reviewing corporate culture. It drives everything from policies and procedures to advancement and lunchroom gossip. Looking for biased business practices is difficult to do personally and professionally, but it’s the only way to gather facts.
Patricia Valoy, an engineer and advocate for women in STEM, believes systemic sexism is something most people don’t see. In training sessions, she uses her own experience as an example. She’s frequently the only woman in meetings and is regularly asked to get coffee and perform clerical tasks. There are junior, male staff in the same meeting, but they aren’t asked to do that kind of work. Does this happen in your company? To find out, ask the women.
One practical way to start an internal review is to begin with an analysis of staffing ratios – how many women does your company employ? Then look at pay rates based on gender. Are your male employees making more than equally or more qualified women? Next consider advancements – are women moving up in equal numbers or are they leaving more often than men?
“There might be some women who are highly successful, and other women never (experience) sexist comments. It doesn’t mean that it’s not there,” Valoy says.
Numerous research studies show that diversity across ethnicity as well as gender has a positive impact on the bottom line. One Massachusetts Institute of Technology study analyzed eight years of data that “included both single-gender and mixed-gender teams.” Economists found that shifting from a single-sex office to one with an even split along gender lines could increase revenue by about 41 percent. It’s going to require some careful evaluation and planning, but isn’t that the kind of return-on-investment your company would like to see?
Momentum is building; hopefully we won’t have to wait another 21 years for significant progress. As a woman-owned agency, we at Red212 are excited to see the advancements for women in business.