Gender parity, an issue often considered to only affect women, is still not getting enough attention from corporate decision-makers. Yet it affects everyone and benefits not only women, but also men and the society in which organizations are operating. So why is parity not a strategic priority in your company? Learn about 5 myths that are hindering parity and the reason it’s much more than a women’s issue.
1. Parity is an issue that only affects women
Not only is this myth a fallacy, it places responsibility for parity on the shoulders of women. Parity is a societal issue that affects everyone, every gender. According to the United Nations Population Fund, achieving gender parity will make it possible to change the responsibilities associated to genders. Thus, typically male roles will evolve little by little as we get closer to parity, according to a Deloitte study. With parity, “men, [can benefit from] more freedom to express their whole selves beyond their role as financial providers”, as well as greater flexibility at work, more collaboration, and better interpersonal relationships.
2. Meritocracy: the “level playing field” recruitment myth
Is meritocracy, the concept of a hierarchy based on merit, just a myth? According to Daniel Markovits’ book The Meritocracy Trap, meritocracy tends to increase inequalities between genders while contributing to the decline of the middle class. Unconscious biases in the workplace, especially in the recruitment process, put women at a disadvantage. In 2012, in a study by the American National Academy of Sciences, identical resumes were sent using names of different genders. The resumes with women’s names were seen as less competent, less employable, and less likely to be chosen as mentees. This study shows that even with equal qualifications, women are subjected to harsher evaluation than men, thus shattering the possibility of a meritocracy, right from the start of their career.
3. Work/life balance: a women’s thing?
No! Work/life balance doesn’t only affect women. Today more than ever, men are participating in family life, and the traditional gender roles are evolving. According to the 2019 Deloitte report The Design of Everyday Men, “men are now taking on new roles outside the office with their families and in their communities”. In fact, according to a Figaro article, today even men are questioning the impact of gender expectations on their life. What’s more, Gen Z, which is increasingly taking its place in the workforce, is extremely demanding of employers. They expect the organizations they work for to be fundamentally committed to the values their generation holds dear, especially gender parity. In an equitable world, every gender would be entitled to the same advantages, the same expectations.
4. Feminine leadership as opposed to masculine leadership: does it really exist?
Even though some companies have taken up the expression “female leadership” to empower women to break the glass ceiling, it’s flawed to think that there are different types of leadership based on gender. Yes, women often participate more, collaborate more, and are better listeners, but they can also be commanding. In her book, Remixer la Mixité, Marie-Christine Mahéas explains that the behaviours we traditionally attributed to certain genders are mostly a matter of education and socialization. She adds that leadership style is much more related to personality. Hence, avoiding this kind of preconceived notion means expanding the possibilities for different management styles and promoting leadership that responds to the current needs of talent!
5. Training programs just for women undermine parity/ feed into parity resentment / imply that women need to be repaired
Training programs just for women are not there to repair them, because no, women are not broken. However, there is a little catching up that needs to be done, says Marie-Christine Mahéas: women, in general, are less often taught to speak up in public. Yet we know that speaking up is an important behaviour for visibility in corporate circles and for expressing our ideas and ambitions. When it comes to inequality in the professional world, women must have access to training, mentorship, and support to be able to overcome the obstacles, both individual (due to education still being very gendered) and systemic, that they encounter in their career. To avoid resentment from other employees, the importance of gender parity and of supporting women in the workplace must be normalized.
Reading these five myths makes it easier to understand how parity has a positive impact on companies and not only for female talent, but for all employees. Parity paves the way for transparency, collaboration, and openness for all, helping people overcome gender bias. And when organizations promote parity, it’s performance and employee satisfaction that increases. But more than that, it’s a society that changes and gives itself permission to work towards everyone being able to take their place equitably, to the best of their abilities.