In This Issue:
- Let Data Drive Your DEI Strategy, Not Politics
- Q&A With Laura Turczanski
- 2020 Impact Report
- The Elusive Balance
Let Data Drive Your DEI Strategy, Not Politics
by Katica Roy, Founder and CEO of Pipeline
Katica Roy is a gender economist, a prolific speaker and writer, an entrepreneur, and an alumna of Project W's Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp. Her company, Pipeline, is an award-winning SaaS company that uses artificial intelligence to identify and drive economic gains through gender equity. As we head into 2021, Katica shares her insights on how business leaders should prepare their DEI strategies for the incoming administration.
What Will DEI Look Like During The Biden-Harris Administration?
Many business leaders have been asking the same question: how will the incoming Biden-Harris administration impact their DEI strategy?
While the question reflects a posture of sincerity and good intent, I encourage you against using the new administration's intersectional gender equity agenda as your DEI roadmap. The outcome of the 2020 presidential election (or any election, really) should not influence your approach to creating and maintaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. Regardless of who's in the White House, you should continue to follow DEI best practices.
What do I mean by "DEI best practices?"
DEI suffers from shiny object syndrome. Over the years and especially since the fallout of the pandemic, we've been told our DEI efforts hinge on:
- Employee resource groups
- Diversity training
- Increased flexibility for working mothers
- Women's leadership conferences
- A Chief Diversity Officer
- Donating millions of dollars to charity
- Rewriting job descriptions to be gender-neutral
These "shiny object" efforts are better than nothing. But unfortunately they don't represent a unified approach to closing intersectional gender gaps in the workplace. While they may be well-intended and well-received, many of these popular DEI "strategies" have not led to more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. Worse, these strategies turn into the type of cost centers that make executives question further DEI investment. In the US alone, diversity training (which has proven ineffective at changing behavior) is an $8 billion industry annually.
Instead of adding one more thing to their DEI playbook, employers should stop what they're doing to look at their DEI data. If there is no reliable DEI data, then now's the time to start collecting it. After all, we use data to measure progress toward nearly all other business objectives. So why don't we do it for DEI?
A University of Massachusetts meta-analysis summarized it this way: "The best organizational research shows that the magic recipe for achieving diversity is no different from the steps necessary to achieve other business goals. In order to change behavior, firms must develop appropriate goals and metrics, share them with stakeholders, and embrace accountability for outcomes."
Here's what that looks like:
Step 1: Use AI to measure and report on key diversity metrics.
We measure what matters, so if DEI matters to your organization, measure it with the help of advanced technology. See here for how to get started with diversity measurement and see here to find out how the Pipeline™ platform drives DEI results via AI and cloud computing.
Step 2: Commit to data transparency.
Take your diversity metrics a step further by publishing them. Even if you're not required by state or federal law to publish diversity reports (yet), you should do so anyway. Job seekers, investors, and consumers are all expressing an increased desire to see your company's progress behind the press release.
Step 3: Offer workplace benefits that lift the burden of the second shift.
Women's unpaid labor increased by 153% during the pandemic, causing women to leave the workforce at four times the rate of men. If your company has the margin, consider adding important employee benefits such as paid caregiver leave and childcare reimbursements. (Guaranteeing pay and promotion equity for mothers should be a given.)
And why should you follow these "DEI best practices" regardless of the election outcomes?
Consumers' and employees' growing awareness of the progress-to-press release gap should inspire companies to take concrete action on matters of equity. More than half (56%) of US adults believe that the business community has yet to take tangible steps to close equity gaps within their organizations—despite the flood of media attention given to the issue.
Moreover, companies that take a stand on fixing systemic inequity are 4.5 times more likely to gain consumer trust than lose it. Among Black Americans and women, companies are 7.5 times and 5.5 times more likely to gain consumer trust, respectfully. Yet, half of Americans don't know how brands are planning to meaningfully address inequity.
There's a rising tide of savvy stakeholders who aren't afraid to vote with their pocketbooks and talent decisions. So instead of focusing on who's voted into power, companies should focus on their stakeholders.
To access the data referenced in this article, please visit Katica Roy's website (where the article was first published).
Q&A With Laura Turczanski
Associate, Davis Wright Tremaine
As a member of Davis Wright Tremaine's Employment Services Group and a Project W leader, Laura Turczanski has particular expertise with pay equity laws and works with employers of all kinds to conduct compensation analyses. She shares with us her passion for closing the gender pay gap and what that means not just for women but for society as a whole.
Q: What is pay equity and why would an employer conduct a compensation analysis?
Pay equity broadly means that employees performing substantially similar work are paid the same, accounting for appropriate job-related factors. A compensation analysis is a method of analyzing pay rates of employees within a company to determine whether pay at a company is influenced by legitimate and objective factors like education, experience, location, or performance, versus protected characteristics like gender, race, or age. In addition to their desire to do the right thing, employers are motivated to conduct a compensation analysis for many reasons, including the need to comply with recently enacted pay equity legislation, decreasing legal risk, and the desire to create a positive and inclusive work culture.
Q: What tools do you use to conduct the analysis?
In response to significant client interest in this issue, attorneys at our firm worked together with DWT De Novo, our legal solutions design team, to create our own data visualization tool to help employers perform a compensation analysis. As our practice has expanded, we have also partnered with innovative companies and established consultants to find the right solution that meets each client's needs. Our overarching goal is to help our client collect the right data, account for legitimate factors for pay disparities, and identify any outliers. We then work with the employer to understand the results of our analysis and develop a remediation plan to address any disparities and put systems in place to prevent recurrence.
Q: As an attorney practicing employment law, there are a number of subjects you could have chosen to focus on. Why are you so passionate about this one?
I am passionate about my work in pay equity because I help clients do the right thing, which I genuinely feel is the outcome our clients want. Sometimes pay disparities exist for legitimate reasons and can be explained—for example, one employee holds a certification or advanced degree and the other does not. But in cases where there are no justifiable reasons for the disparity, companies are generally very motivated to fix the problem.
Q: In addition to the need to comply with legal requirements, what are the broader implications of pay equity?
There is a compelling business case for pay equity within our society. Closing the gender pay gap would result in social and economic benefits that would serve everyone. If women were paid comparably to men, we could cut the poverty rate in half and inject over $500 billion into the U.S. economy. In addition, research has shown that employees who believe they are being paid fairly are more engaged, less likely to quit, experience less stress at work, and feel both emotionally and physically healthier.
Q: What trends in pay equity have you seen over the past couple of years, and what do you see trending over the next year or two?
Social movements across the country, like #MeToo and #TimesUp, have fueled some of the interest in pay equity over the past couple of years. Due to the larger call for the fairer treatment of women in the workplace and greater public pressure to be transparent, fair, and inclusive, we began to see employers prioritizing the need to address the gender pay gap. More recently, the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter movement that placed a spotlight on our country's long history of systemic racism and discrimination have prompted many companies and organizations to look inward to assess whether their pay structures fairly compensate employees of all races and ethnicities. Thankfully, most companies are not interpreting these 'trends' as a one-off problem to be fixed and understand that addressing these concerns is fundamental to a company's core values and day-to-day business operations.
2020: A Year Like No Other. The Work More Essential Than Ever.
Project W kicked off 2020 with great optimism and a full year's schedule of programming and events. But the world shifted under our feet. Circumstances required a change of focus—but made the importance of our mission more apparent than ever. We invite you to read our year-end report and hope it will inspire ideas and resolve for the year ahead, as we work together to achieve our mutual goal of a more just and equitable startup ecosystem.
The New Elusive Balance
Striving for work/life balance just got a whole lot harder
by Neda Riskin, Project W Program Manager
Neda shares with us her insights on the toll the pandemic has taken on working women, particularly those with children at home, and her hopes for how lessons learned during the COVID crisis can guide lasting and meaningful changes to empower women with two jobs, one in the office and one in the home.
Since the hammer of the pandemic dropped on our economy, our news feeds have been flooded with headlines lamenting COVID-19's impact on women in the labor force. Unlike previous downturns that hit men the hardest, women disproportionately work in industry sectors that have been harder hit by the pandemic, e.g., hospitality, healthcare, travel, and retail. A demographic that has been particularly hard hit is working women with children who are now faced with the impossible challenge of securing childcare in a new world where school and daycare schedules have been majorly disrupted. Even those "lucky" working mothers able to keep their jobs and secure some semblance of childcare have been left to carry a heavy domestic burden, illustrated by data showing women are taking on more tasks at home and reporting increased stress and anxiety.
As a working mother of a two-year-old, seeing this news was not surprising, but the statistics are nonetheless startling. Here are just a few:
- In September of 2020, four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force, roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men.
- During the pandemic, women ages 25 to 44 are almost three times as likely as men of the same age group to not be working due to childcare demands, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve.
- One in four working women is considering reducing hours, looking for a less-demanding job or actively planning to leave the labor force.
- According to a report from the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation, the risk of mothers leaving the labor force and reducing work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.
In comparing the impact of the COVID-19 induced recession on women to the recession of 2008 that disproportionately affected men, C. Nicole Mason, economic expert and head of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, coined the term "she-cession." While women have made great strides over the past few decades, many fear that the she-cession will wipe out much of the progress made towards gender parity in the workplace.
Recently, my son's daycare shut down for three weeks as a precautionary measure when another student tested positive for the coronavirus. My husband and I, who are both remotely working at full-time jobs, scrambled to juggle childcare by working in shifts with intermittent help from family and our former nanny. And, as difficult as it was, I know I am one of the privileged few who has the flexibility of a remote job with the benefit of help from family and the wherewithal to subsidize childcare. For a majority of working mothers, the current school and childcare infrastructure has failed, and governmental policies have proven inadequate in addressing the immense challenge.
With the devastating toll the pandemic has had on women, especially working moms, it can be hard to find a bright spot. However, the pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings in our systems and, in a way, may present an opportunity in the longer term. Here are some of the ways we can build on lessons learned during this challenging time to empower women in the workplace:
- ➢ The need for more flexible work arrangements and the ability to work remotely to better accommodate working parents has become apparent to many employers. As many workplaces have shifted to a remote working model by necessity, it has gained acceptance. Creating a culture where flexible work is widely accepted could mean that work is more compatible with having children and will ultimately help retain more women in the workforce over the long-term.
- ➢ The crisis has also shown how dependent women's careers are on a functioning childcare system and parental leave policies. While the laws governing parental leave have been steadily improving in the US, the need to invest in work family-friendly policies with access to paid leave and affordable high quality childcare are key to greater maternal labor force participation.
- ➢ The gender and racial inequities exacerbated by COVID-19 have also sparked an awakening within many American companies and a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion. Some employers are taking very serious steps to hire more women and conduct internal pay audits to address gender and race inequities. Additionally, many companies are understanding of the unique challenges created by the pandemic and will not penalize job seekers who were forced to leave their jobs to care for children. This means there should be more on-ramps back into the workforce for women who have had to step back during the pandemic. And, it suggests that women seeking to reenter the labor market may actually have an advantage and increased negotiating power when they do so.
With the female labor participation rate in the US falling back to where it was in 1987, feeling optimistic about the future is hard. But in a way, the crisis has brought to the forefront many of the barriers that have been holding women back for decades. As the nation moves forward through this crisis, I hope that the pandemic serves as the impetus to create a more empathic and flexible culture where women receive the support they need and are no longer forced to choose between pursuing career success and caring for family.
From Our Partner Community
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