Last week I was fortunate to attend the 2014 Aurora Foundation signature breakfast featuring keynote speaker, Victoria Budson. Victoria is the founding Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Read her impressive bio. Based upon the latest data, she made the observation that “finding, hiring, promoting, and retaining female talent is something that will give organizations a significant competitive edge” in the global marketplace. “Regardless of how you feel about women, they all need to have women in their workforce,” she continued.
Here are a couple of statistics shared by Victoria that caught my attention:
- Only 7% of every philanthropic dollar goes to help women and girls.
- We don’t just have a wage gap; we have wage gaps (plural). While everyone is talking about the 78 cents wage gap figure for women in the aggregate, the wage gap for African American women is 66 cents, and for Latinas, the wage gap is 54 cents on the dollar for every white male doing the same job with the same skill set.
- Women make up between 51-52% of the population.
- The majority of educated talent in the USA is female
Victoria believes that we won’t be able to solve this problem without data. “Crusaders need math,” she proclaimed. “Any gap that you can measure, you can close. It’s about data. Period.”
We are all pickled in the same culture
Victoria reminded us that the job of ensuring equality for women will not get done unless men are on board. “These issues are really tricky. Good, well-meaning people can get it wrong. As gals, we don’t get it more right than any other group. We all have implicit biases. We are all pickled in the same culture.”
In her closing statements, Victoria advised the fathers in the room to be mindful of how they treat their daughters “because they will learn about healthy relationships between men and women from you.”
And to the mothers in the room, she cautioned women to be mindful of what they do and say around their daughters. Even though they may appear not to be listening or caring, they are. Moms are the role models and help to shape the women that their daughters become. “Tell your daughters that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, but caution them that they are going to encounter a few challenges.”
For the professional women in the room, Victoria told us to tell our own narrative. “Women are the queens of ‘doubling down,’ but working harder is not what gets women noticed. Tell your own narrative.” Referencing Hilary Clinton’s new autobiography, Hard Choices, Victoria emphatically tells us “Don’t unpack your decisions. It’s over. No explaining them. Move on confidently.”
And for the employers in the room, Victoria advised them to “work hard and get it right. “It’s not about your business plan; it’s about what you believe.”
When girls and women are put on the sidelines, everyone suffers
With females making up more than half the population, women are no longer a special interest group. They represent a formidable talent factor, which, if employed correctly, can give organizations a significant competitive edge. Now that’s something both men and women can agree on.