3 Ways Women In The C-Suite Can Use Influence And Power For Greater Equality

Written by Staff

paul mcmorran
paul mcmorran

The highest-level executives in senior management usually have titles beginning with “chief” –often called the C-Suite. The three traditional officers are chief executive officer (CEO), chief operations officer (COO), and chief financial officer (CFO).

It may come as no surprise that women are poorly represented in the C-Suite.

While tech companies have 17-to-23 percent women in director roles, that percentage drops to 8.4-to-13.8 percent of women in C-level roles, according to a study by salary data analyst Paysa, entitled  Reaching The Top In Tech: An Analysis of C-Levels and Directors.

Cydni Tetro (President) and Sara Jones (COO) are co-founders of the Salt Lake City-based Women Tech Council.

WTC’s C-Suite program focuses on increasing opportunity for women in C-level and board roles, and women currently seeking those roles. The data shows a huge dropoff in opportunity for women advancing into C-level roles, Cheryl Conner wrote in a Forbes report.

From Women To Women: Marketing For Greater Inclusion And Equality

In June, Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu, the co-founders of Journy, spoke out about sexual harassment by a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist — an action that resulted in his resignation. It also spurred a series of women to come out publicly about sexism, many reporting similar harassment experiences, particularly in the technology segment where women are woefully underrepresented and the power structure, in many cases, is skewed.

In the process of conducting their work, Tetro and Jones have learned some important lessons in the ways women can exercise influence and power, as follows:

1.Give men safety

Just like women need safe environments to operate, so do men. For many senior men, talking about diversity is a newer experience. Honor their willingness to learn and willingness to engage. They are coming to the table, but are learning a new language about how to talk about diversity. It will not come naturally the first few times, and that is OK. We sometimes expect those above us to have all of the answers. Sometimes we have to reverse-mentor our leaders so that change can happen.

2.Give men data

WTC built the Inclusion Framework to be data-driven because, as busy executives ourselves, we recognize that business imperatives drive a company’s operations. Culture is deeply tied to operations. By presenting information in a data-driven manner, we were able to have a deeper dialogue about what the numbers meant and how lack of diversity might be creating the wrong reputation or not producing the best teams possible.

3.Give men the benefit of the doubt.

Most men are trying to adapt to a world where women are gaining more influence. Many men have to cognitively remap traditional notions of fairness and meritocracy to one that understands unequal access to opportunity.

For many, it is the first time they are having to acknowledge this reality. Instead of getting frustrated that a man doesn’t “get it,” realize that they are trying and that offering partnership to help them figure things out will go much farther and much faster than expecting them to figure it out on their own.

In all— women have more PR influence than we may realize in moving the business ecosystem to a better balance of power. Let us use our power proactively and wisely.

Read more at Forbes.

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