By Kim Lyons
While most companies realize by now the importance of gender diversity, the reality is that unconscious and unintentional biases may remain, says Carolyn Duronio, partner at Reed Smith and a member of the Downtown law firm’s executive committee.
“A lot of people assume once they have a diversity group at their company, the problems are done and fixed,” Ms. Duronio said.
“It’s important to make sure those in management understand that it has not been solved. There may not be intentional discrimination, but unintentional exclusion is still exclusion.”
A recent study by research nonprofit Catalyst found that companies that have women in senior executive roles perform better across the board in the marketplace.
Reed Smith hosted a roundtable discussion at its Pittsburgh office earlier this month with the leaders of several Pittsburgh companies’ women and diversity initiatives, with the goal of talking through ideas for helping women’s initiatives advance.
Thirty people attended, including representatives from BNY Mellon, EQT, Highmark, MSA Safety, Giant Eagle and PNC.
The group had an ambitious agenda: How to align women’s diversity groups with their companies’ strategic plans; what role data play or could play in demonstrating success rates; and a look at some of the biggest successes and challenges of women’s initiatives. One of the biggest ones: engaging more men.
“It’s important to get men to be part of the dialogue, especially when dealing with that unconscious bias,” said Tonya Snyder, a global product manager at BNY Mellon. “They have to be able to understand that women need to be involved in decision-making.”
And a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, either, said Shefali Shah, a managing director at BNY Mellon. “You can’t just lump all these general issues together. You need to look each individual situation.”
Often women are not aware of the value they bring to an organization, and sell themselves short when it comes to asking for promotions or raises, Ms. Shah added. “It’s really important to learn how to do your own self-evaluation, with a focus on your performance. And ask for feedback. If you did a good job, make sure it is noted.”