Tuesday, April 10, was Equal Pay Day – a day to call attention to the gender pay gap. This was one of many topics of discussion at this year’s WorkHuman conference. In honor of equal pay day, today’s post shares a couple of news headlines and some poignant quotes from keynote speakers from WorkHuman.
First up, The Independent reported on the class-action lawsuit brought by more than 2,300 women against Goldman Sachs, which was “accused of systematically paying women less than men, and giving them weaker performance reviews that impeded their career growth.”
Systems as the root cause of workplace inequity is a theme reported in a Vanity Fair article on the results of a survey conducted by The Hive, The Skimm, and Survey Monkey:
“Other women recalled similar situations: being passed over for promotions, watching their female co-workers struggle to break through, or facing sexual harassment that drove them out of their industries. Their stories are a necessary reminder that despite the advances made by the #MeToo movement, millennial women are still running up against many of the same gender dynamics faced by generations before them — even if they don’t realize it themselves.
“As we found when investigating gender inequality in the workplace, many women don’t feel empowered to elevate themselves or their concerns at work because they recognize the systemic barriers created by sexism. But they persist, in part, because of prevailing partisan divides over the extent of the issue.”
Until we address the systems underlying the perpetuation of negative power dynamics, no proposed solution will succeed – in pay equity or in sexual harassment in the workplace. This was point hammered home by journalist Ronan Farrow in the historic #MeToo panel at WorkHuman. Ronan pointed out: “This wasn’t a sexual abuse issue. This was a public safety issue. This was also about systems – systems in place that would be used by the most powerful and wealthy (usually men) who could use the system to silence (usually) women.”
Joining Ronan on the #MeToo panel were activist and founder of the #MeToo movement Tarana Burke and actress and activist Ashley Judd. Their perspectives were to tear down the systems through empowering honesty and eliminating shame. Tarana commented, “We need to interrupt sexual violence. We need to tear down the walls of shame. The shroud of shame makes young people complicit in their own abuse. We need to activate their power by lifting the veil of shame. We need to give people hope on their journey.”
Key to giving people that hope is showing them the joy of freedom. As Ashley answered when questioned if she was afraid to step up and speak out, “Was I afraid? I was afraid of what it would cost me if I didn’t. What it would cost to my dignity and integrity. The application of empathy is wonderful. The joy from people who have been able to free themselves from shame.”
Brené Brown tied together these two ideas of joy and difficult conversations, reminding us that, “People who have the capacity to lean fully into joy share in common one thing – gratitude. The ability to be grateful for the moment.” And yet, in the workplace, “If you can’t engage in difficult conversations on race, gender, etc., you won’t be leading in the next five years. Not engaging in these conversations is the definition of privilege. Remember, integrity is doing what’s right over what’s fun, fast and easy.”
And we need to look to the younger generations in the workplace to lead the way. They have the most perspective on what’s possible and the will to fight for change. As Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, said, “We have a new generation who has a different expectation in the workplace.”
But regardless of our age, our gender, our race, our history at work, we are all responsible for making work more human, for creating safe and rewarding work experiences for all. Our CHRO, Steve Pemberton, reminded us to “see not the circumstances, but the possibilities. There’s a lot we can learn about a person when we choose experiences over labels.”
What are you doing to tear down the systems supporting workplace inequity and strife?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is a leader in the WorkHuman movement and the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.