Many businesses will no doubt celebrate International Women’s Day—and indeed, there is much to celebrate.
The proportion of women on the board of Britain’s largest listed companies has risen above 40% for the first time, the EU has agreed that companies will face mandatory quotas to ensure that women have at least 40% of the seats on corporate boards, and female career advancement in America is improving—albeit slowly.
However, there are still many challenges facing women in the workplace that have gone largely unexplored — such as the fact that even as female leaders enter the c-suite, they are likely to be silently struggling with the symptoms of menopause.
luck asked female CEOs to reveal the experiences, phrases, and practices they wish they could get rid of in the business world. And the responses, from gaslighting to being unnecessarily labeled as a “female builder” in the same vein as men simply described by their genderless job title, are eye-opening.
The “lost staircase”
Every worker is well aware of their group’s “lost ladder”—this offensive person that newcomers are warned against in hushed words during their first week.
“In my career, and in my personal life, I’ve been warned more than once about someone like this,” said Rachael Greaves, CEO of compliance company Castlepoint Systems. “Someone who is still allowed to keep their job, and keep their position of authority, despite their repeated border crossing and predatory behavior.”
Instead of warning your new employees to “watch him”, he thinks leaders should stop and think about whether their workers should “have to watch their step every day”.
Cindy Gallop, CEO and founder of the erotic site Make Love Not Porn, echoes that problematic people must be eliminated from the entire business world so that others can thrive.
“I want to see the opposite of diversity and inclusion. Because every company and industry makes the same mistake,” he said. “It’s not about bringing diversity and inclusion. It’s about kicking sexists, misogynists, racists, ableists, ageists, homophobes, and transphobes out.”
One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the rise of remote working. Decades worth of change has occurred in a matter of months, with the percentage of Americans working from home increasing from 5% pre-pandemic to 60% in spring 2020.
But now, some employers want to undo the progress made with back-to-the-office mandates and revised policies that only pay lip service.
“These orders disproportionately harm mothers, other primary caregivers and anyone else who bears the brunt of responsibility for keeping the household running smoothly (which in current statistics falls mostly to women),” warns Kelly Schmitt, CEO of Benevity, a certified B Corporation corporate social responsibility software provider.
Companies that are serious about diversity and inclusion, “need to be serious about creating the conditions where men and women can succeed,” he added.
While other leaders want to bid prescribed working hours goodbye, Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO of Flexa Careers, calls it “fake flexibility”.
For example, companies that offer a four-day week are under the guise of increasing work-life balance, but expect workers to complete the same amount of work by working later in their evenings. Or hiring managers who advertise “remote” roles when in reality, staff are expected to be in the office at least 3 days a week.
“Willful ignorance or honest mistakes are to blame. Either way, “fake flexibility” hurts both employers and employees,” Johnson-Jones said, adding that staff whose needs are not accommodated in practice are unable to fulfill their potential and innovate. beginners who meet in a different work environment what they sell in the interview is not available for team members.
“By 2023, I want to see the gaslighting of women eliminated. It is insidious, institutionalized, and endemic in business,” said Erin Gallagher, CEO and founder of Ella For All.
Often, gaslighting comes in the form of NDAs, performative exit interviews, and biased performance reviews, but Gallagher thinks that even this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is another example of gaslighting.
“Telling women to ‘Embrace Equity’ is manipulative. It’s passive. And this is why the “progress” we’ve made in the last 300 years has been incremental, stagnant, and repetitive at best. at worst,” he added.
Another example of this is expecting female workers to solve women’s issues, such as the gender pay gap or inequality in the c-suite, when women statistically do not hold positions of power. Or make counterproductive promises to “empower” women to apply for promotions, when the blame for the lack of career advancement of women in business rests firmly on the shoulders of leaders.
“Women don’t want another webinar, they want to be seen and heard, they want platforms created for them and through them that focus on the challenges they’re uniquely experiencing,” said Mimi Nicklin, CEO of the global agency. of marketing Freedm and author of Softening the Edge, says. “We don’t need empowerment, we need real purpose, empathy and a commitment to progress.”
Ban on menstruation and fertility
Unfortunately, stigma follows women throughout their careers from when they experience the hormonal effects of menstruation until they reach menopause—and in between that time they are passed over for promotion in the childbearing years or not.’ y right to statuary leave after a miscarriage, which covers the distressing experience with additional taboo.
Women are tired of it: A lot of CEOs are talking luck that they want the prejudice against these natural experiences, synonymous with femininity, to be eradicated from the business.
“There is a real prejudice against pregnant women, and if we can eliminate that then we will find ourselves in a more equal workplace,” said Ana Mahony, CEO and founder of the financial consultancy Addition Wealth. “Unfortunately today, pregnant women are more likely to be passed over for job opportunities, viewed as less committed to their work, and less likely to receive a raise than their male counterparts.”
Meanwhile, looking back on his career spanning more than four decades in male-dominated fields, from automotive to the medical industry, Terry Weber CEO of Biote, a hormone therapy company , states that most workplaces today are more inclusive than ever. “But we still need to tackle the last hurdle facing working women of my generation: menopause.”
Menopause occurs when women tend to move into senior leadership positions, with nearly 20% of the US workforce affected by menopausal symptoms. However, the stigma surrounding it means that some choose to retire early, rather than being open about their struggles.
“Our whole society needs to work to normalize menopause and allow conversations. The burden of doing so should not be placed on working women who may fear the impact on their work relationships or their careers,” Weber warns.
Prefixes and gender associations
There is a resounding bugbear among the hundreds of CEOs who have achieved luck and that is the unnecessary use of the word “woman”.
“Personally I prefer not to be called ‘female founder’, ‘female CEO’, or ‘female engineer’. It’s tiring and limited,” Bianca Cefalo, CEO and co-founder of Space DOTS, a company that tests materials in space, argued. “My gender has nothing to do with what I’ve achieved. Gender doesn’t matter, I’m a professional in business and that’s what should matter.”
“By 2023, I think we should all stop using “woman” as a qualifier for leadership positions. For years I’ve been called one of the best female CEOs in the industry but it’s not enough,” said Ellis McCue, CEO of Territory Foods. “I just want to be recognized as the best, there are no qualifiers.”
And the same goes for lists and awards: “Women want to be celebrated for what we’ve done, not for the traits that make up who we are,” says Christine Yen, co-founder and CEO of the software debugging company Honeycomb.
Instead, he insisted that the awards should not be gendered because “restricting women to these lists only reinforces that they are “different” and “other” instead of being qualified and accomplished like any other executive, investor, or builder.
Likewise, some CEOs shared that they feel less accomplished when winning such awards because the competition pool is much smaller and that such standalone areas are for women, including those women-only events and panels, against the sentiment of wanting equal treatment for male leaders.
Meanwhile, the founder and president of the femtech firm Elvie, Tania Boler, calls time for gendering empathy as an innate female trait: “We see it all the time in articles written about women in leadership roles -as empathy is an amazing power. to women,” he said, while stressing that it enforces gender stereotypes and “prevents them from being automatically kinder just because they’re a woman.”
“For true equality to exist in business, we must celebrate leaders for their skills and attitudes regardless of their gender,” he added.