Modern consumers require businesses to not only deliver excellent quality of their services but also to embrace social accountability, especially in terms of providing employees with equal opportunities. Nevertheless, every month, news emerges on how high-ranking managers at multinational companies mistreat their workers or generally demonstrate inappropriate behavior engaging in all types of discrimination. One of the most pressing issues related to discrimination in corporations concerns prejudiced attitudes towards women. The article “Wherefore Art Thou All Our Women High-Potentials?” by Anna Marie Valerio explores a topical problem of gender biases in the corporate world. Two of the main observations outlined by Valerio concern the lack of efforts by companies to identify high-potential in women and poor talent management on the part of businesses.
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The Lack of High-Potential Identification Efforts
Every company which espouses a long-term strategy and has an understanding of where it will be in the next decade introduces a succession plan responsible for ensuring that it has a continuous supply of top managers. A person who is capable of leading a company forward must know every aspect of their organization and thus must receive proper training within it. Valerio (2018, p. 33) notes that women are denied an opportunity to be included in succession plans because the superiors do not recognize potential in them since they do not perceive them to be “strong.” In other words, managers often select future leaders based on biased requirements and assumptions which perpetuate discrimination against women. Essentially, companies tend to assess the potential of their employees based on their leadership competencies, and women are generally considered to be lacking in “agentic qualities,” which are allegedly necessary for managers (Valerio, 2018, p. 33). As a result, the small number of women among top managers in corporations worldwide can be explained by the prejudiced potential-identification process, which is still inherent to the majority of large companies.
Moreover, apart from the fact that women do not advance in their careers, poor potential-identification procedures ultimately harm companies’ future success. Namely, enterprises that fail to recognize the potential in their female employees due to discriminative practices and metrics eventually fail to develop potentially extremely effective women leaders. In other words, by continuing to embrace prejudice as part of their operations, companies both negatively affect career growth opportunities for women and prevent themselves from getting skilled executives. Thus, such a situation has to be resolved since a change will positively affect every stakeholder. There are several steps corporations have to take to establish an efficient and equal potential-identification process. First of all, companies have to recognize the fact that gender does not define a person’s capacity to be a competent manager who can lead an organization forward and inspire employees. Moreover, it must be accepted as a norm that every person’s approach to leadership is different, and there cannot be a set of pre-determined qualities which can indicate the potential to become an executive.
Additionally, companies have to realize that there can be several types of leadership methods that they can successfully implement. For instance, in one study, it was discovered that teams consisting of women who demonstrated an inclination towards shared leadership roles outperformed male groups where the leader did not change (McShane & Tasa, 2017). Such evidence shows that women are capable of delivering excellent performance while occupying leadership positions, even despite the fact their approach may be different from the standard strictly hierarchical one. Yet, it is clear that the government involvement should only be reduced to the adoption of Acts protecting the rights of women; therefore, companies themselves have to create incentives to encourage their female employees. For instance, Safeway introduced the Retail Leadership Development program, which helped increase the number of women-of-color store managers by more than ninety percent (McShane & Tasa, 2017). Thus, companies have to be more active in promoting equal opportunities within the organizations through special programs encouraging women and minorities to advance their careers.
Unsatisfactory Talent Management
Another problem outlined by Valerio concerns the fact that even when companies have inclusive potential-identification programs in place, they do not provide sufficient incentives to talented women and force them to leave. Essentially, women who manage to attain excellent performance and whose activity receives praise and high evaluations still are not paid properly, at a level that would reflect their competencies. Such situations make women question their career choice and leave their organizations to seek better opportunities. Moreover, Valerio writes that there is a difference in salaries and other rewards between men and women in the workplace, and it is larger than performance assessments (Valerio, 2018). The problem of the gender pay gap is a topical one and is discussed on many platforms, yet still, no solutions which would be extremely effective were offered. Thus, women on average receive less money from their employers than men, which further worsens their position and limits their opportunities. There is also a so-called ceiling in terms of rewards in certain companies which women cannot surpass.
Nevertheless, companies can still improve their internal operations by making them even more inclusive to ensure better retention of valuable and talented female employees. First of all, the approach which enterprises have to espouse must be multi-faceted and target different areas, including the psychological one. According to McShane and Tasa (2017), women, compared to men, are less likely to initiate negotiations and are generally prioritize relationships. Thus, many employers exploit such a trait of many women to their advantage and decide to pay them less money than men for the same work. Companies must realize that such practices constitute absolute discrimination and therefore have to adjust their policies to benefit all employees. Therefore, companies should encourage their workers to start negotiations about raising their salaries if they believe that they deserve it. Additionally, organizations must improve their culture and eradicate any gender stereotypes concerning negotiation styles women, who are usually expected to bargain collectively and not individually (McShane & Tasa, 2017). Companies may also introduce clearly defined terms under which an employee will be guaranteed to be given a raise.
Organizational culture is a major factor that prevents both men and women from fulfilling their potential, and companies have to strive to achieve absolute trust and inclusivity. Women are the main victims of workplace bullying, which can significantly impact their self-respect and mental health (McShane & Tasa, 2017). Essentially, women exposed to inappropriate or unethical behavior on the part of their colleagues may be repressed to demonstrate leadership qualities or negotiate their salary with the employer. Valerio also offers to conduct a gender pay equity analysis which will help understand why women in organizations receive less money than men (2018). The notion of continuous evaluation of the efforts to promote female leadership is particularly beneficial for ensuring equal access to opportunities in the workplace. The ultimate goal of any company is to provide women with a chance to demonstrate their excellence and be able to advance in their careers.
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McShane, S., & Tasa, K. (2017). Canadian organizational behaviour (10th ed.). McGraw Hill.
Valerio, A. M. (2018). Wherefore art thou all our women high-potentials? People + Strategy, 41(1), 32–36.