By Lawrence P. Schaefer |
Schaefer Halleen recently co-sponsored a table at the April 12, 2017 Twin Cities Business Forum “Women in Leadership” luncheon. The event celebrated the strides that have been made in the last ten years in women achieving executive-level positions and Board seats in Minnesota and nationally over the past ten years. While progress has been made, the focus of the panel discussions concluding the luncheon was how to accelerate this progress in the coming years, as women still lag far behind men in representation at these levels, and indeed at all management levels in the corporate hierarchy.
While women are hired at about 49% of men in entry-level positions, this number goes down, and indeed accelerates in progressive levels up the corporate ladder. At the beginning management level women are at 41%, at Senior Manager/Director-level 35%, at VP level 29%, at SVP 24%%, at C-level (direct reports to CEO and CEO) 20%, according to a 2016 comprehensive study by McKinsey & Co., and LeanIn.Org. Moreover, a 2016 study by the University of St. Catherine analyzing the top 85 companies in Minnesota, in 2006 Women comprised 14.2% of Board of Directors seats, and 15.5% of executive level positions in these companies. By 2106, these numbers had risen to 19% and 19.9%, an indicia of clear and unmistakable progress, but slow progress.
The panelists, four women leaders in local companies, and the Moderator, an editor at Twin Cities Business, engaged in a lively discussions, which included questions from the audience, about how this progress can accelerate. In sum, the ideas ranged from standard fare – the importance of mandated mentoring, the need to set and monitor aggressive gender and diversity representation goals (and reward the attainment of these goals), the value of diversity training to the point where it becomes ingrained in the corporate culture – to more concrete and innovative ideas about assigning multiple female mentees to each male corporate executive, increasing opportunities for women leaders in “line” (P & L) roles with real visibility to the CEO versus “staff” leadership roles, and how to mandate training and fully understand how “implicit bias” can infect staffing and promotion decisions and, most importantly, how to develop policies that combat and root out the influence of this bias operationally, which can readily be achieved at well-run companies.
This celebration and discussion, and the sharing of these ideas, is important as we face and attempt to overcome this persistent under-representation in the future. More important, however, is an initiative launched by local agribusiness giant Cargill, called “the Paradigm for Parity,” in which Cargill is seeking to form a coalition of similarly committed companies (private and public) to achieve fully proportional gender representation at the Board and Executive level, by 2030, a mere 13 years away.
While this kind of commitment should give us all real hope that accelerated change is coming, one catalyst for continued change will have to be courageous women, and their advocates, who are willing to enforce their rights, in litigation if necessary, to equal opportunity in the workplace. Those women will find a willing and experienced partner in the attorneys at Schaefer Halleen.
Lawrence P. Schaefer has earned the respect of judges and other lawyers for his thorough and aggressive client advocacy in negotiation and litigation. He focuses exclusively on representing people who have been subject to employment retaliation and/or discrimination at work. Larry serves as the firm’s President and head of litigation.