Employees Want Their Leaders To Fight For Equality: How Do You Measure Up? – Forbes

Businessman is holding model rocket in hand. Office building exterior and skyscraper with sun flare … [+] in the background.
Black Lives Matter protests and the #MeToo movement changed how Americans think and talk about racial and gender inequality.
Americans are more aware than they were a decade ago about the obstacles some of their fellow citizens face: In 2011, 70% said they believed people of color had as good a chance as whites to get a job for which they were qualified. Last year, according to Gallup polling, only 55% said they believed in such equal opportunity
Americans are more aware of gender inequities at work, too. A majority (60%) agree that men have a better shot than women at high-paying jobs. In a 2019 Pew poll, 57% believed men have a better life than women in the U.S. (up from 39% in 2011).
Now employees expect their leaders to do something about inequality, according to the 22nd edition of Edelman’s Trust Barometer, an annual survey of trust attitudes around the world.
How are you doing on this front so far? Here are three questions you can ask yourself to evaluate whether you may need to do more to promote equality in your organization.
If you want to identify the most qualified person for a promotion, are you ensuring your employees have equal opportunities to prove their worth?
Assignments that speed up promotions —- highly visible projects that are critical to the organization’s mission and offer international experience — disproportionately go to men, even in highly selective talent pools, according to a report by Catalyst, a nonprofit that advocates for gender equity at work.
Catalyst surveyed more than a thousand MBAs worldwide: A third of the men but only a quarter of the women said their project gave them exposure with top executives and was critical for their firm. Men also reported having double the staff and three times the budget of female project leaders.
New business founders experience similarly unequal opportunities, according to a Columbia University and Harvard study. When entrepreneurs pitch their start-up ideas at funding competitions, investors tend to ask women to explain why they won’t fail with questions like: “What safeguards do you have against that?” or “How long will it take you to break even?” When questioning men, their questions are more about their vision of success: “What major milestones are you targeting for this year?” or “Are there any thoughts on scaling up your sales process?” Because investors prefer to fund visionaries, these different lines of questioning create unfair advantages for men, even among equally qualified startup founders.
“Investors are reluctant to invest in firms they have never heard of, because they perceived them as riskier, even when they consistently outperform name brands,” said Eddie Ramos, a global investor and CIO with extensive Wall Street experience.
So Mr. Ramos leverages his established credibility and the diverse network to “introduce very large and successful women and minority owned businesses to circles of investors who have never heard of them.”
How do you ensure that people on your team have similar access to resources that can help them perform at their best, like feedback and mentoring?
People of color feel less supported at work, McKinsey & Company’s 2021 Race in the Workplace reports. Compared to 44% of their White peers, only 41% of Black professionals say they have access to senior leaders who can provide information and advice, according to a 2019 Coqual survey of almost 4000 white collar workers.
Katherine Weslock, the chief people and culture officer at Pep Boys, opens opportunities to learn to everyone on her team: “If someone is interested in learning, say executive compensation, they can take ‘the 49’ on a project: meaning, they can work along with the subject matter expert who carries the bulk of the project, or ‘the 51.’ That way, we have a team approach and diversity of thought as well as collaboration and we learn new skills.”
When Black and Hispanic employees are mentored, often, the mentors are of a different race, and ill-equipped for cross-racial mentorship, according to a summary of academic work on the topic published by researchers from San Diego State University, Brigham Young University, and Pepperdine University. And Dr. David Thomas, the president of Morehouse College, found that Black professionals tend to receive feedback focused on skills improvements rather than more helpful advice on networking and getting high visibility appointments when he studied the impact of race on mentoring while at Georgetown University.
Women, too, receive less of the support that can propel success, according to a survey that LeanIn.com initiated. The #MeToo movement may be a contributing factor: Some men said it has made them wary of mentoring, working alone with, and socializing with female colleagues.
Women receive less useful feedback, researchers at London Business School and INSEAD suggest. In a series of studies they conducted, feedback givers were more concerned with being kind to women than they were with being kind to men, which could limit the usefulness of the feedback women receive.
People who believe that the most qualified person deserves the best opportunities tend to assume that the same level of high performance translates into just rewards and equal opportunities for all. It rarely works out that way.
People of color work harder to receive comparable performance evaluations to whites. In a recent study, professors at Penn State University, Oregon State University, and Wake Forest University, analyzed the performance standards for Black and white service worker employees, like hotel workers and grocery clerks.
Black service employees need to display more positivity with customers than their white counterparts do to receive the same performance ratings, that study shows. They must maintain eye contact longer, do more nodding, and smile widely and repeatedly.
Women tend to receive lesser rewards than men for the same evaluation of their performance. A team of Stanford University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill researchers studied this phenomenon in a Fortune 500 tech company. When they compared women and men who scored similarly high on “taking charge” behaviors, they found that the women received lower performance ratings from their managers. A study of almost 40,ooo retail workers found similar results. The study, authored by researchers at MIT and University of Minnesota, showed that women receive higher performance ratings, but lower ratings of leadership potential. The authors explain on a Yale posting that, “while managers can consider real-world metrics in evaluating performance, potential is more abstract—and that might make it more subject to bias.”
Occasionally, exceptionally high performing people of color and women are more quickly promoted than white men into executive positions. When this promotion acceleration happens, it’s only after they achieve middle management positions – the kinds of positions that they are frequently passed over for at early career stages and that they need to work extra hard to achieve.
If you can equalize opportunities to demonstrate merit, provide equal access to resources for achieving high performance, and share just rewards for demonstrated success you will have made important strides towards becoming the sort of leader employees increasingly are calling for.


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