Inclusiveness@EY – it starts with each one of us

Im Oktober 2014 war der US-amerikanische Genderforscher Dr. Michael Kimmel zu Gast bei EY in Düsseldorf. Im Rahmen der Veranstaltung “Leadership Insights” diskutierte er unter anderem darüber, wie Männer von der Gleichstellung der Geschlechter profitieren können und wie ihre Bedürfnisse und Erwartungen in diesem Prozess aussehen.

Ich hatte das große Glück, mit dem Wissenschaftler sowie mit Ana-Cristina Grohnert ein Interview führen zu können. Frau Grohnert ist Mitglied der Geschäftsführung von EY Deutschland und Talent Leader GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria). Ich wünsche Euch viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Dr Kimmel, what exactly do you mean when you say: the best way to help women is by helping men?

Dr Kimmel: I don’t think helping men is necessarily the “best” way, but it is a good way.  We cannot empower women and girls without also engaging men and boys.  Take, for example, balancing work and family.  Women want to be able to do so, but frequently this is seen as a “women’s issue” and it may hurt their careers.  But when men join that effort, and insist on parental leave for men, too, women’s ability to reconcile job and family life actually increases.  There is no zero-sum game between women and men.  When women win, men will also win.

Dr Kimmel, a little while ago you said that we are closer to gender equality than we have ever been in our history. How close are we and what remains to be done?

Dr Kimmel: There is so much yet to be done that we often forget just how far we’ve come.  I grew up believing the workplace would look something like Don Draper’s workplace on “Mad Men.”  Of course it looks nothing like that now.  But there are still unconscious bias in hiring and promotion, stereotypic thinking, and wage disparities.  There is so much gender-based violence, so much casual sexism (street harassment, catcalls, sexual harassment in workplaces) and sexual assault.  We have way to go.  But we are moving in the right direction.

Frau Grohnert, how do you perceive the gap between men and women in the workplace?

Frau Grohnert: I totally agree with Michael that a lot has changed over the last decades. However, we have not reached all our goals yet. One of the key changes at EY is that “Diversity and Inclusiveness” is not an initiative anymore, but in fact a big change project. We are trying to move from working in homogeneous teams to managing diverse teams; we are aiming to replace uniform work styles to diverse work styles, and last but not least we are challenging very traditional and entrenched ideas of what roles women and men should play in the workforce and in society or in their communities and their families.

Especially in the corporate context we often see one of the most fundamental misconception of “diversity”. It is perceived to be a program for the “others”. However, if diversity is the mix and inclusive leadership is about how we make this mix work, then inclusiveness does not start with the others, but it starts with each of us.

Diversity and gender equality have a high priority at EY, summarized by the term “Inclusive Leadership”. Frau Grohnert, how important do you think it is to address the topic of equality from a leadership perspective?

Frau Grohnert: It is vital that leadership is breathing diversity and leading by example. If we want to challenge barriers that exist for women in organizations, if we want to challenge stereotypes about women who lead companies and daddies who manage the kids, if we want to challenge assumptions about flexibility and the ability to combine personal and professional goals in a productive way, then we – more than ever – need to make this a joint effort; not only from a leadership perspective, but also across gender, culture, age groups and hierarchy.

Dr Kimmel, what do you believe to be the biggest obstacle to achieving true gender equality in the workplace?

Dr Kimmel: One of the things I stress is how “similar” women are in the problems they face.  According to a report by Catalyst, the chief obstacle to women achieving equality is “the behaviors and attitudes of men.”  But the main obstacle to MEN achieving the lives that they want is also “the behaviors and attitudes of OTHER men.”  When men say they want to take parental leave, it is their male colleagues who dissuade them by saying that they are obviously not sufficiently committed to their careers.  It is the attitude of older men about what constitutes a good employee that also holds men back.

Frau Grohnert, you are often mentioned as an example of how to strike a balance between family life and a successful career. Do you find that flattering, or does it irritate you that this should be noteworthy for a woman, but not for a man?

Frau Grohnert: Truth be told I got used to it with the years. But it is equally true, that men are not asked these questions, because there is still the assumption that their spouse is automatically in charge of the family. But also in this area I have seen some noticeable shifts in the mindset and attitude of men. Just recently a colleague told me that his second child had been born and that he would take parental leave for six months – not just the two “father months”. He was a little worried that his colleagues might disapprove, but I assured him, that this is exactly what our company wants and really appreciates. Not only research has shown that employees who can take responsibility for their family are more reliable and loyal to their firm, show a higher engagement and are more motivated and satisfied. So it’s not just the individual parents that benefit, but also the company!

In your view, Dr Kimmel, how important is leadership in overcoming the gender gap?

Dr Kimmel: Obviously, leadership is important!  Impulses often come from the top and flow downwards, so when the top executives say that gender equality is important to them those impulses filter down to every managerial level.

Dr Kimmel, you live in the United States. What differences do you see between the US and Europe? Do you think that over here we take a different approach on the topic?

Dr Kimmel: Many of those who are committed to gender equality in the US regard the structural platforms already in place in the EU as exemplary starting points for achieving gender equality.  After all, the top countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Equality list are always European.  The US ranks about 24th, alongside Costa Rica.  Germany is not too much higher, typically around #17.   An adequate educational and health care system, paid parental leave structures, flexitime, part time – all these are available to many Europeans, but to hardly any American.

However, following the structural change, there are also shifts in attitudes.  Americans are highly motivated to balance work and family, yet our government provides us with few resources to do so.

Frau Grohnert, Michael Kimmel once countered the claim “a black woman stole my job” with the question, “Where did you get the idea it was your job?”. Do you think that this attitude is an issue in Germany, too?

Frau Grohnert: Well, the idea that a certain job or promotion is automatically “reserved” for someone rather than being “deserved” and earned because of his or her merits is certainly and unconsciously still a reality. That is why we focus so much on training our people on unconscious bias matters. We want to make sure that we recruit, promote and retain people on the basis of observed, precise and objective facts and not assumptions or hearsay, like “she does not have the gravitas to be made partner” or “I heard people say he is a hard worker. He is always the last leaving the office”.

We have had good experiences with these trainings, but it is the same as with first aid courses: it’s never “done”, you still have to practice over and over again. Because no one is free of biases, we have to recognize their existence and our tendency to stereotype and reflect them so our decision-making can improve. One of the most important aspects is developing a culture where we can challenge each other on our assumptions, sense of entitlement or privilege.  Being aware of your own biases can be difficult, but if we establish a culture where people are invited to constructively challenge each other, to coach each other and uncover their blind spots, then I am convinced we will create a truly inclusive and high-performing work environment.

Let’s assume we have succeeded in mastering all the challenges regarding gender equality. What would your next mission be, Dr Kimmel?

Dr Kimmel: Gender inequality is one of several aspects of inequality and discrimination.  Race, sexuality, age, religion – these are also important dimensions of inequality, and they all intersect.  So “fixing” one is really impossible without confronting the others.  That said, I think when we’ve eliminated sexism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, and every other form of discrimination, I’d like to take a long nap.

Ihr möchtet in einem Unternehmen arbeiten, in dem die Gleichstellung von Mann und Frau nicht nur ein Lippenbekenntnis ist? Dann solltet Ihr EY kennenlernen!

Viele Grüße

Eure Marisa

3 thoughts on “Inclusiveness@EY – it starts with each one of us

  1. I recently heard of a study in place that wants to evaluate differences in payments decided by women for women, men for men, women for men and vice versa. I am eager to see what they will find out. Could it be that women in leadership positions have a part in the gap between men’s and women’s salary?

  2. Dear Tanja,

    thank you for your great comment.

    As we all have our own frame of reference – the way we view and evaluate things — it affects our judgement (both positively and negatively). It operates at a subconscious level and it is different from other people’s frames of reference. So during performance evaluation, unconscious bias about members of various groups may influence evaluation of individuals, despite evaluators’ best intentions to be fair and accurate. The gender of the evaluator is not significant – both men and women apply the same assumptions about gender. So more women in leadership positions won’t necessarily evaluate other women’s performance better than men would do, because of the existing different perception of women’s and men’s performance.

    Research also shows that when people are educated to recognize their unconscious bias and their tendency to stereotype and reflect their frame of reference, their decision making can improve. That’s why we at EY provide different unconscious bias workshops in preparation of performance evaluation, but also in recruiting processes or promoting procedures.

    Furthermore we have carried out equal pay reviews on a regular basis since 2010. The gender pay gap, which was as wide as 8-9% only a few years ago, has now been reduced to less than 2%, thanks to transparent salary reporting, unconscious bias training and other measures. In 2012 we have been awarded a ‘best practice’ badge of approval by the German Federal Ministry of Family Af¬fairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

    Best wishes,

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