By Jane Miller, Chief Operating Officer
Gallup and the National Women’s Hall of Fame Tuesday hosted a celebration of what women and society have achieved since Title IX became law 40 years ago. As a gender, we have made significant strides in the last 40 years due to Title IX’s purpose to end discrimination on the basis of sex in hiring and employment by ending gender discrimination in education programs and activities. Although the law dramatically increased the opportunities for women to participate in sports, we have a long way to go to continue to help millions more reach their potential in the U.S. and the world.
At Gallup, we are fortunate to have a workforce that is made up of 55% women and management ranks that mirror our associate ranks. We have always valued diversity in the workplace because of the quantifiable difference it makes to engagement and the overall financial health of an organization.
However, statistic after statistic shows women still aren’t making enough gains at the highest levels of the C-suite or boardrooms. There was a great series of articles last year in The Wall Street Journal exploring why women aren’t advancing at the same speed that men do. From a female neuroscientist who talked about the differences in our brains as to why we choose different directions in our work and lives, to a woman well-known on Wall Street who talked about being an executive as an “extreme sport,” there are many theories as to why women are not as likely as men to make it to the executive level.
Here is one more theory: In Gallup’s database of more than 7 million people who have taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder, we have found that men and women have four of the same top five strengths: Learner, Responsibility, Achiever, and Relator. The two we don’t have in common as an aggregate population are Strategic for men and Empathy for women. In addition, women tend to lead with Responsibility, while men lead with Achiever. Many women feel a strong sense of responsibility to their work and coworkers and to their home and family. Often, women feel that no one could take their place at home and they feel a “responsibility” for that job first and foremost.
And there of course are the many organizations that don’t do enough to understand each person’s strengths and what they could gain by bringing more of their best women into the highest levels of leadership.
Workplaces can definitely help women go even further by valuing their innate, unique strengths and by helping both women and men arrange their schedules. When great workplaces value women and make accommodations for all parents to have real flexibility -- ranging from time to pick kids up after school to “valuing” time with family as a reason to leave work early and work from home at night -- more and more women can hold the responsibility for both jobs.
Many organizations still don’t get the idea that great associates are working after the kids go to sleep or making up for it on the weekends or early mornings. They don’t get that what matters most is performance and outcomes. Companies should look for individuals, regardless of gender, with not only the strengths to lead, but also the strengths to integrate work and life.
And now just think about the future -- just imagine what it holds with statistics like these:
- Women are entering college at increasing rates in comparison to men
- Fifty-eight percent of college graduates are now women, and women now make up the majority of those attending professional graduate schools
- Seventy percent of high school valedictorians are women in 2012
Visit Gallup.com to read a special series of articles featuring new data on gender inequality worldwide beginning Thursday, July 5. Labels: gender, strengths, StrengthsFinder, women