MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women break into Wall Street? is written by Shiza Shahid, co-founder and ambassador of Malala Fund.
Why are women not reaching executive-level positions on Wall Street and beyond? I believe answers to this question have been simplistic and partial at best. And these tend to be the most common explanations: women are seen as not having enough confidence or forced to put their career on hold to raise families; men are accused of being sexist and insensitive. As a result, the solutions that follow are at best ‘band-aids:’ women are given advice to be more assertive, men are told to be less sexist, and policies are created to allow women to work from home.
However, in my opinion, we simply do not have enough information to develop concrete solutions because we have never fully committed to understanding this problem at all levels of business. Changing the status quo doesn’t happen overnight – it requires real changes to policies and appointing strong leaders to be accountable for implementing these changes.
I am on the steering committee of the 30% Club, an organization dedicated to implementing diversity on boards and in leadership positions of large companies. Research conducted by this organization in partnership with KPMG and YSC titled Cracking the Code offers a distinct approach to solving the gender gap. Below are the most important takeaways that I believe all businesses should follow when working to improve gender diversity:
Study your employees
Organizations need to use the data they have on diversity more effectively to understand where existing issues lie and decide how to alter their business to prevent women from leaving. This includes implementing gender diversity, even at the lowest level of business. It also includes analyzing promotion statistics and developing flexible work environments and mentorship programs.
Educate leaders (properly)
Investing in good managers is crucial. They need to be taught to focus on career management rather then task management. They should be focused on providing career mapping and fully understanding the difference in how men and women operate at work. For example, women are more likely to give credit to a group than to themselves, whereas men are more likely to self-promote. Our leaders must first be educated in order to develop the initiatives necessary to enforce gender diversity in all levels of business.
Boards need to be held accountable for the diversity of their company. While I do not believe in quotas, I strongly believe in setting standards and enforcing them. This can include increasing the percentage of women on boards, the types of positions women hold, and the percentage of women on track for executive leadership.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How can more women break into Wall Street?
Wall Street: an option or obstacle for young women? by Hope Newsome, Chief Compliance Officer at The Newport Group.
How more women can dominate Wall Street by Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at Barclays.