Women need more than words (and binders) to succeed at work

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For women to bridge the pay gap in the workplace and to find their way into boardrooms and senior leadership positions they’re going to need men’s assistance. This is not to patronise women, but simply a statement of the reality of who currently wields the power. What women need least is men who say one thing, but do another – men who talk about this issue using all the right words, but who’s actions don’t quite stack up. Women need more than words – they need real action.

There would be many men I could point to in order to make my point – both good and bad examples. But I shall pick on Governor Mitt Romney, presidential candidate for the United States this year. It’s not a good example, regardless of what he would have us believe.

In yesterday’s US Presidential debate, Governor Romney was asked about how he would deal with the issue of women’s pay inequality and under representation in the workplace. He eloquently responded that he had an excellent record as Governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, he did. But the reality is not quite as he portrayed it.

He explained that on becoming governor, he had been disappointed that all the people being considered for senior positions in his administration were men. He went on to say that he had requested his staff to find women applicants. They had come back with “binders full of women”. Besides a statement that has produced a bit of mirth (and a wonderful new set of parody pictures), this is just wrong. The history in his State is that well before he became Governor, a bipartisan woman’s group had been developed a portfolio (or binder, if you wish) of female candidates, and they presented these to Governor Romney when he took office. This was a concerted campaign, putting pressure on him and his administration to appoint women.

He deserves credit for doing so. But the reality is that his own network had only male candidates in it. And it took a concerted external effort to get him to appoint women. At Bain Capital, he had an entirely men only leadership team. There were no women partners at Bain during his tenure. Read the details, with supporting links here.


It’s interesting to note that Romney (and his campaign later) also refused to say whether he supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

So, Governor Romney did some good in his State, under pressure and together with a well organised campaign. He should take some credit for this. But, not what he did last night. And saying that his chief of staff was allowed to leave at 5pm so she could “go home and cook supper for her family” and that he got “binders full of women” might not have helped him in appearing liberated and female-friendly.

I don’t hide the fact that I am not a fan of the current crop of Republican ideologues, nor a fan of candidate Romney’s subservience to their agenda, so I am sure there is some bias in my choice of example. But I still think it’s a decent example of the type of men and male thinking that does NOT help women in the workplace.

This is a tough issue. But it can be dealt with. It just needs REAL men: men who will walk their talk, and men who will partner with women to help them achieve the equality they deserve and from which the workplace will benefit.

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0 thoughts on “Women need more than words (and binders) to succeed at work”

  1. Emil Swift says:

    From the title of this blog, I expected more than just another piss-poor shot at Romney. I expected a well-thought out argument expressing vision for how men (in positions of leverage) must participate in lifting the ceiling on women in places of influence and power.

    Yes, it’s true that “a bipartisan woman’s group had been developed [sic] a portfolio (or binder, if you wish) of female candidates, and they presented these to Governor Romney when he took office. This was a concerted campaign, putting pressure on him and his administration to appoint women…”

    I hardly believe Romney’s the only governor to whom women’s groups presented the resumes of qualified women for appointment to states’ offices. But as far as I know, Romney’s the only one who actually did something to further the cause of women in government. It’s disingenuous to argue that Romney’s putting women in high offices is proof of his failure to give to women the status they deserve.

    As far as “words and no action” goes, Romney is an example of “words AND action”.

    So, crucify him, why don’t you?

    1. Graeme says:

      Emil, we use our blog to capture thoughts, musings and insights. Sometimes our blog entries capture deep insights – often in their early stages of hatching. Other times, they’re just a single thought, often merely fleeting. For more in-depth analysis, you can have a look at our white papers – http://www.tomorrowtoday.uk.com/white-papers

      You can browse through all of the blog entries we’ve written on diversity issues here: http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/category/diversity-culture-gender-etc/

      My favourites over the past few years include:
      * http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2012/04/09/next-steps-for-the-future-of-womens-equality
      * http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2011/07/10/what-women-want-%e2%80%93-the-future-of-leadership/
      * http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2011/06/23/the-new-world-of-work-%e2%80%93-utopia-for-women/
      * http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2010/12/20/equal-opportunities-please-not-equal-outcomes/
      * http://www.newworldofwork.co.uk/2010/09/18/women-and-the-new-world-of-work/

      You can also see additional entries at our sister company’s website:
      * http://www.tomorrowtoday.co.za/2012/05/14/a-womans-world-beckons/
      * http://www.tomorrowtoday.co.za/2004/11/30/a-brave-new-world-for-women/

      I hope those give you a clearer understanding of our view of women in the world of work in the near future.

      1. Graeme says:

        Emil, just one more thought: Mitt Romney was (is?) an ordained Bishop and Stake President of the Mormon church. The hierarchy of this church is exclusively white and exclusively male. Women are excluded specifically. This is reason enough for us to put the Governor under closer scrutiny than other candidates. It was not a cheap shot.

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