I recently joined the Council on Foreign Relations as a Term Member. Like most life-membership organizations that operate out of massive Park Avenue townhouses, the makeup of the membership is predominantly white and male. The Term Member program, I'm told is more diverse, which you can see at their events where a diversity of races and genders is represented in the room (although I have yet to meet a transgender Term Member).
Another positive development at the Council is the programming around the economic benefits of women's workforce participation. Today, I attended a panel on "The Status of Women in the Economy" and every argument for why we need more gender parity at work was presented. I'm not going to repeat all the stats in this blog. Rather, I'll point you to a report that Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Rachel Vogelstein wrote for the Council that is packed with great data points that I summarized in a previous post.
Among the many points that stuck out today from the "The Status of Women in the Economy" panel, Thomas R. Nides, the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley and the former United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (basically the COO of the State Department), had the best one. He said that at the end of the day, "it's all about the money". Hiring more women is obviously the moral thing to do, but none of that matters if companies don't understand how women's participation in the workforce improves a company's bottom line. And numerous studies have shown this, including a recent one by the IMF that shows a 5 percent rise in the GDP would result from closing the gender gap in the US (I wrote more about this study in a previous blog post here).
I'm excited about a number of forthcoming studies that frame gender parity through the prism of growth - and not just human rights. Laureina Yee, a partner at McKinsey who leads their "Women in the Workplace" partnership with LeanIn.org teased an upcoming study that will show how much profit margins rise at companies with more women leaders!
There's a simple etiquette to follow that will make people value your introductions a lot more
If you're lucky, people want to introduce you to interesting people. I'm one of those lucky people and I'm beyond grateful to people who want to grow my network.
The problem is that I get introduced to people frequently that I have to put-off because my schedule is crammed, or the introduction is to a person that I have very little business alignment with. I often take the meeting not to be rude to my friend who made the introduction, but that often means I start to get annoyed with my friend and I have less time to meet with people I'm supposed to be seeing.
Instead of telling a potential new contact that I can't meet them currently, it would be much better if the person making the introduction would first ask if I'd like to be introduced to that person. The same etiquette should be applied to the person who is being introduced to me (maybe they don't have time to meet me either!).
Fred Wilson wrote about the "double opt-in intro" a few years ago. He gave this simple advice:
"When introducing two people who don't know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it."
I can't tell you how much I appreciate it when people do the double opt-in. Oh, and I'll fully admit it took me a couple years to learn this etiquette myself. It's a bit more work for the introducer, but it pays off in the long run. People will value your intros a lot more if you take the time to make sure they're a good match.
That's what the World Bank says
There are so many reasons why there are fewer women than men in the workforce (and if you want to look at workplace gender disparity in the United States relative to the rest of the world, then read my post from earlier in the week). The reasons we hear the most in the US are often the most insulting ones to women. How many times has someone shrugged and told you that there are fewer women working at the top of companies than men because "women drop out"?
Blaming women for not conforming to workplaces that were never built for them in the first place is an easy out for anyone who refuses to look at the structural barriers women face - especially when major barriers are written into the laws of your land.
The World Bank's Women, Business, and the Law report lists 943 gender-based disparities that prohibit women from some type of economic participation. In France, a first-world country, women are not allowed to work in professions where they would need to lift about twenty-five pounds. Yes, twenty-five pounds.
You can read the entire Women, Business, and the Law report here and dig into how each country discriminates against women. As Rachel Vogelstein and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon write in their excellent Building Inclusive Economies report:
"an overwhelming 90 percent of the 173 economies surveyed [by the World Bank] have at least one legal policy that inhibits women's economic participation...
...One hundred economies around the world limit the occupations and sectors in which women can be employed. These limits include restrictions on the hours women are permitted to work and the types of jobs they are allowed to hold. Not only do these barriers reduce the pool of qualified candidates but they also contribute to the confinement of women to low-paying jobs, as many of the more gender regulated industries—such as mining and manufacturing—are relatively higher paying."
Scroll to page 236 to see the specific section on the U.S. You'll see that gender-based disparities in law preventing women from certain jobs in US aren't as prevalent as in Saudi Arabia, for example, but we do lack legal mandates around paid leave that directly affect women's participation in the workforce.
Legal barriers for women in tech have grown, thanks to some bi-coastal knowledge sharing
Yesterday, Sheelah Kolhatkar, released her piece for this week's New Yorker that digs into why gender disparity is so prevalent in tech. It's a juicy read, and I'm a big Sheelah fan. I ate up her book Black Edge last winter that looked into how hedge funds ultimately get away with insider trading. I urge you to read Sheelah's entire story - it's long but worth it. In the meantime, I'm highlighting one of the more revelatory parts that details why it's so hard for women in tech to speak up about the discriminatory practices they witness.