In our first blog with marketing research veteran Kristin Luck, we discussed the need and success of Women in Research (WIRe). Now, we address her thoughts on gender equality within the industry and beyond.
Question: A recent report by Women in the Workplace reveals that Corporate America is not on a path to gender equality. Only 1 in 9 men believes that women have fewer opportunities than men, and 13 percent ofmen believe it is harder for men to advance because of gender-diversity programs. Why do you think gender diversity is not a priority?
Answer: I think really committing to a gender diversity initiative is hard work. As was mentioned in the Women in the Workplace report, while nearly three quarters (74%) of companies assert that their CEO is making gender diversity a priority, the staff at these organizations aren’t getting the message. Less than half of workers believe that gender diversity is a top priority for their CEO, and only a third view it as a top priority for their direct manager. If it’s not a priority at the C level, it won’t be a priority anywhere else in a company.
Multiple studies have confirmed that companies with more women in senior management meet with greater financial success. McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index (OHI) finds “firms with three or more women in top positions score higher than their peers – findings supported by studies by Columbia Business School and University of Maryland, among others.” Fast Company recently reported that Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on expanding opportunities for women in business “found a 26% boost in return on invested capital in companies with lots of women on their boards versus companies with no women”. A study conducted by MIT also found that diversity leads to better products and services. In short, diversity improves performance, morale and end product. “Women are perceived as more empathetic and emotionally driven and they have a unique perspective on how products and services should be developed.” Considering these studies, if you take women out of the equation, out of the board room, out of the research process, there’s a fundamental perspective that’s being seriously missed.
The future success of our industry is truly dependent on making gender diversity a priority.
Question: What specifically can #MRX do to encourage female leadership and achieve gender equality?
Answer: The Women in the Workplace report includes several recommendations that we can embrace to help achieve gender equality.
- Senior leaders need to prove their commitment to gender diversity by participating in women’s events and publicly sponsoring high-potential female employees.
- Invest in initiatives that support women, particularly by reviewing employee compensation and closing pay gaps.
- Set targets and hold leaders accountable for reaching them. Those who did saw the most progress in female representation at entry levels, while those without formal targets lost ground in the three years between 2012 and 2015.
- Identify and interrupt gender bias from hiring (where we know even recruiting software can cause disparity) to performance reviews (where we know men will never hear certain criticisms).
- Do more to give all employees the flexibility to find their own balance between work and life (taking into account that managers and staff have different ideas of what this means).
- Create a virtuous cycle by making it a priority to appreciate and encourage senior-level women who are at a point in their career where dissatisfaction runs high and can work against retaining them.
We know what a challenge committing to gender diversity is, and we don’t take it lightly at WIRe. We remain the only market research industry organization singularly committed to providing global programs and services for women that inspire and facilitate leadership, entrepreneurship, mentoring and other career development goals and help cultivate the necessary resources, tools and networks for success.Make no mistake; men are an important part of this dialogue. Men are welcome at all WIRe events and our biggest corporate sponsors are organizations led by men. A big part of creating awareness about gender inequity in the industry is to educate BOTH men and women that it exists and illuminate opportunities for change.