Companies that devote resources to promoting a diverse, gender-balanced workforce mostly fall short because they try to “fix” workers to fit the “ideal worker” prototype. Women learn new skills, find mentors, speak up, negotiate and lean in – all to no avail. Gender expert Michelle P. King says these tactics don’t work because women aren’t men. King describes numerous “invisible barriers” that women and other minorities face. Firms that remove these barriers can unleash the full potential of their workforce.
Women who want to advance often try to “fix” themselves to fit their corporate culture, but the flaws are in the workplace.
Patriarchy supports the beliefs that women aren’t as good or as valuable as men. Patriarchy is so much a part of society that most people don’t realize they hold those beliefs. Yuval Noah Harari wrote in Sapiens that humans developed a hierarchical division of labor at the time of the Agricultural Revolution. Men farmed; women tended the hearth and children. Even today, people accept gender roles early and without question, and those roles form unconscious expectations. Society monetized agricultural work, giving men’s work value, but not home and child care. People came to associate leadership and power with masculinity.
Companies spend time and money on diversity and anti-harassment training, flexible work schemes and parental leave, but these are stopgaps for underrepresented groups. Firms design these programs to help workers fit the idea of perfect employees. Women are often excellent leaders – creative, collaborative and democratic. They are skilled, savvy and tough...