Searching for Good News for Women in the Workplace (Finding Little)

The news is crammed with stories of men mistreating women – unwanted touching and other forms of sexual harassment. The volume of reports is unprecedented, as is the number of high-profile men being pulled from high-profile positions. Where will all this lead? I am disgusted by men treating women as sex objects. I am appalled by men who have presumed they have the right to do these things – or assumed “no” didn’t mean “no.” Is there any good news for women in the workplace that is obscured by all of this? That’s what I’d like from Santa this year!

I looked for some in the recent McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn 2017 report on Women in the Workplace. I didn’t find much positive. One finding of this report was a perception gap between men and women, with women more likely to see gender equity as a long way off, men to see it as a mission accomplished, or a low priority. Women are less likely than men to agree that their managers challenge bias or disrespectful behavior toward women, give them opportunities to grow, or consider a diverse set of candidates for promotion.

I looked for something positive in the October WSJ report, also titled “Women in the Workplace,” which included several articles in addition to highlights of the McKinsey/LeanIn report. One report (Stuck in the Middle) shows that women continue to want to be top executives but to have lower hopes than men (39% vs. 44%) of achieving their goals.

Another article had good news and bad. The good news is that women are doing better at negotiating for higher pay; the bad is that, if they do, they still get caught in the “double bind,” being seen as bossy or aggressive. One ray of hope, in the article by Francesca Fontana, is that Millennial women are speaking up more than older women about inappropriate behavior. But (bad news) Millennial men are unlikely to see gender diversity as a priority. (I’m not sure what this says about the hopes we are pinning on this generation.)

Bottom line, the story is the same. Progress is so little and so slow. What positive news, or hope, there is can’t balance out the bad news and the “Weinstein effect.”

As a holiday gift, please tell me some good news!

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