By Joanne Cleaver
The gender gap is a credibility gap.
That’s the real reason why few women make it to top leadership, at companies, nonprofits and just about anywhere else.
Last week, a Lean In/McKinsey & Co. report, “Women in the Workplace 2015,” reiterated the same statistics as reports released year after year by Catalyst, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and various women’s groups, and offered a familiar analysis: Women start strong and fade fast; they have ambitions to reach the top but don’t get there.
Repeating the same numbers over and over is not inspiring change.
What will it take?
I got a glimpse of what works a few months ago, while sitting on the sidelines of a meeting of a hundred women at a New York accounting firm. The women were all in the room for an update from the leaders of their women’s initiative (a program intended to coach women through career advancement with the aim of retaining them to partnership). The managing partner of the office, a man, was there too.
After a cheerful summary of new programs and opportunities was delivered by the manager of the women’s initiative, the floor opened for questions.
A hand shot up and the owner of that hand, a middle-aged woman, stood up.
“I keep hearing about the pay gap,” she said. Her voice wavered at first, but steadied as she continued. “Movie stars are talking about it. The industry is talking about it. But we don’t hear anything from … ” and she looked straight at the managing partner, “you.”
It was graveyard-quiet in the room.
She went on. “I don’t want to know what anybody else makes. But I do want to be sure that I’m making the same, especially considering that I’ve been here for 15 years. So what are you doing about that? How do I know that we women are being paid fairly?”