By Karen Guzman
Women have come a long way in terms of educational and professional achievement, but there is still a lot of work to be done if they are to reach true equity, speakers said at a recent panel discussion at the Yale School of Management.
The panel discussion, dubbed “The Journey to Equity,” convened Yale SOM faculty members and alumni in a talk focusing on why the pace of progress in gender equity has been so slow, especially for women of color. Yale SOM hosted the event on February 6 as part of the year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale College and the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first women graduate students women at Yale, and in honor of Black History Month.
Panelists included Barbara Biasi, assistant professor of economics; Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior; Rasanah Goss ’11, manager - corporate functions, North American diversity recruiting at Accenture; Judith Scimone ’00, senior vice president and chief talent officer at MetLife; and Natania Malin Gazek ’17, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant.
Kristen Beyers, Yale SOM’s director of community and inclusion, moderated the panel.
The two faculty members shared their research on gender and equity. Biasi cited statistics showing that there have been huge gains for women, both in education and in the labor market, in the last 70 years. Today, women are graduating from college at rates 20 to 30% higher than men, Biasi said.
There has also been improvement in the wage gap between men and women. In 1980, women earned roughly 60% for every dollar a man earned. Today, the figure has climbed to 80%, Biasi said. But the gap is still too big, and research shows that “what seems to matter is the fact that women, for a host of reasons, tend to take lower paying jobs, and take more time off [due to childcare],” Biasi said.
Solutions to complex issues like this lie in systemic changes to the way employers value and reward workers, Biasi said. Other panelists echoed this idea, saying that continuing progress can best be achieved through systemic change, rather than piecemeal workplace policies.
Biasi, for instance, proposed that workplace cultures that better support parental leave and the career trajectories of parents who take time away from the office could help address the wage gap.
But before real change can be implemented, Kraus said, it is important to reexamine existing, faulty narratives about equity. Research shows that the path to equity is strewn with many more obstacles than most people understand. “It’s much slower and much more stagnant,” Kraus said. “And wages lag, especially for women of color.”
Organizations need inclusive approaches to effectively address inequity, approaches that take into account the overlapping categories of diversity, Gazek added. These include issues of race as well as gender. “We need equitable systems and structures that allow all people to thrive,” Gazek said.
When explaining the benefits of these inclusive strategies to organizations, it’s helpful to emphasize the benefits for all employees, Goss added. “It shouldn’t feel like a zero-sum game or a power struggle,” she explained. “The research has shown, for instance, that when women thrive, everyone thrives.”
Scimone reiterated the necessity of examining structures and the ways in which existing biases creep into assessments, especially when recruiting and promoting workers. “We need to design ways to assess talent that are not biased,” she said. “Systems are the antidote. We need equitable systems, not just good intentions.”
The panelists encouraged students to play a role in fostering equity in their future organizations by supporting systemic changes that address inequity, by questioning their own unconscious biases, and by acting as allies to individuals in groups that have traditionally been marginalized.
The next event in the 50WomenatYale150 series is Fempire 2020: Running to Win, a conference that will convene female leaders of business and politics for a day of candid, educational, and inspirational conversation on March 27.
About the Event
As part of the 50WomenatYale150 celebrations, SOM will be hosting “The Journey to Equity.” It aims to be a robust community discussion around progress to date on the gender equity topic, while also engaging in “real” talk around why progress hasn’t been quicker in advancing women, particularly women of color. Joining the panel are two faculty members who will share labor statistics and research on gender inequity, and a few alumnae to contribute their perspectives and experiences post SOM.
Barbara Biasi, Assistant Professor of Economics at SOM
Michael Kraus, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at SOM
Rasanah Goss '11, Manager- Corporate Functions, North America Diversity Recruiting Accenture
Judith Scimone '00, Senior Vice President, Chief Talent Officer, MetLife
Natania Gazek '17, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant
This event is open to the Yale community. Registration is required.