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  • Transcriber: Ivana Korom Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

  • A few years ago,

  • I had a corporate feminist dream job.

  • Launching a company's national initiative

  • to recruit more female employees.

  • In the finance sector.

  • But first, I had to get the signed-off support

  • of all department heads.

  • So I spent months perfecting the proposal,

  • presented it

  • and won the support of almost everyone.

  • But in this team, there were two men we'll call Howard and Tom.

  • Howard just would not get back to me.

  • I emailed him about the proposal,

  • I left him voice mails,

  • I'd roll my chair back and forth during meetings,

  • trying to make eye contact with Howard.

  • (Laughter)

  • He'd just take out his phone and start scrolling.

  • And then I started to question myself.

  • Had I been diplomatic enough in that email?

  • Too demanding in that voice mail?

  • Does Howard hate this proposal

  • or am I just overreacting?

  • It's probably just me, I thought.

  • And then one day,

  • I'm walking down the hall and here comes Howard.

  • He's holding a packet of papers,

  • sees me and lights up.

  • He says,

  • "Sara, Tom just emailed this to me, you should take a look.

  • It's a proposal for us to recruit more women."

  • (Laughter)

  • "I think Tom has a really great idea here,

  • and we should all get behind it."

  • Howard proceeds to hand my own proposal back to me.

  • And explains to me the many merits of what I wrote.

  • (Laughter)

  • Howard was never against recruiting more women.

  • But he needed to hear from a man

  • why it was important to hire more women.

  • And as this scene played out,

  • I said nothing.

  • Because I knew somehow that I was a guest

  • in a place that wasn't meant for me.

  • And so instead of questioning my environment,

  • I questioned myself.

  • I wanted to know

  • how so many talented women who worked long hours

  • and started their careers with confidence

  • all became trained in this kind of self-doubt that makes them say,

  • "It's probably just me."

  • How was that still possible?

  • Aren't things getting better?

  • Opportunities for women have increased over the last 50 years.

  • But over the last decade, progress has stalled.

  • Experts have previously identified 2059

  • as the year the wage gap would close.

  • But in September of this year,

  • these same experts announced that according to the most current data,

  • we'll have to adjust our expectations

  • to the year 2119.

  • (Audience murmurs)

  • One hundred one years from now.

  • Looking beyond the wage gap,

  • women are still underrepresented in leadership,

  • receive less access to senior leaders

  • and are leaving the fastest-growing sectors,

  • such as tech,

  • at 45 percent higher rates than men,

  • citing culture as the primary reason.

  • So what have we been doing to address gender inequality?

  • Why isn't it working?

  • Many businesses think they're addressing the problem,

  • because they provide training.

  • Eight billion dollars worth of training a year,

  • according to studies from the "Harvard Business Review."

  • These same studies also conclude that these trainings don't work

  • and often backfire.

  • Research tracking the hiring and promotion practices of 830 companies

  • over the course of 30 years

  • found that white men who are asked to go to diversity trainings

  • tend to rebel

  • by hiring and promoting fewer women

  • and fewer minorities.

  • The other solution has been to ask women to change their own behavior.

  • To lean in.

  • To sit at the table.

  • Negotiate as often as men.

  • Oh, and get more training.

  • Women currently earn the majority of college degrees,

  • outperform their peers in key leadership skills

  • and are running businesses that outperform the competition.

  • It doesn't look like education

  • or skills or business acumen are the problem.

  • We're already empowered.

  • Enough to make an impact on the businesses that are ready.

  • These approaches fail to address the key systemic problem:

  • Unconscious bias.

  • (Applause)

  • We all have bias, it's OK.

  • It's lodged in our amygdala,

  • it keeps ticking away when we go to work.

  • Bias affects how much I like you,

  • what I believe you're capable of

  • and even how much space I think you take up.

  • Thanks in part to the Me Too movement,

  • awareness of gender bias has spread.

  • But the harassment stories that made headlines

  • are just one piece.

  • You don't have to harass a woman to limit her career.

  • The messages women send me aren't about being harassed.

  • They're being tolerated in the workplace.

  • But they're not being valued.

  • I don't know anyone who has ever said,

  • "You know what I love about my employer?

  • They just tolerate me so well,

  • I feel so tolerated."

  • (Laughter)

  • To break the inertia,

  • we need to take a step beyond Me Too.

  • Beyond just being tolerated as women.

  • Our organization decided to tackle the problem in two ways.

  • First, if we're all biased,

  • our workplaces need to be actively antibiased by design,

  • not by trying to change mindsets one training at a time.

  • So our team began by identifying over 100 cultural levers

  • that can be adjusted to counter the impact of bias.

  • We found that small tweaks can lead to big changes.

  • And they cost a lot less than eight billion dollars.

  • So what do these small tweaks look like?

  • If a woman is asked to state her gender

  • before filling out a job application,

  • or performing a skills-related test,

  • she performs worse than if she were not asked first.

  • So how can businesses avoid activating this self-stereotyping bias?

  • Move the gender check box to the end of the application.

  • Example two.

  • In a national survey that we conducted,

  • men were 50 percent more likely to state

  • they had received multiple, frequent evaluations

  • over the course of the last year.

  • As opposed to one single yearly review.

  • Here's why this matters.

  • "Fortune" magazine reviewed performance evals across industries.

  • And found that criticism like this related to personality,

  • ["Watch your tone!"]

  • but not job-related skills,

  • appeared in 71 of the 94 yearly reviews received by women.

  • Of the 83 reviews received by men,

  • personality criticism showed up twice.

  • But in businesses that conduct much shorter, highly frequent reviews,

  • say, five-minute weekly evaluations

  • focused on specific projects,

  • the personality criticism vanishes.

  • And the perceived performance gap between men and women

  • is nearly nonexistent.

  • While yearly reviews rely on overall impressions,

  • which are like petri dishes for bias,

  • short, objectively focused evaluations

  • eliminate this feelings-based gray area.

  • Now, some businesses are consciously taking these steps

  • to counter the impact of bias,

  • while others just do a good job of advertising.

  • We wanted to find out who is actually getting it right.

  • So we put a poll on Facebook,

  • we asked women in workshops

  • how they were choosing employers where they would be valued.

  • The most common response that we heard?

  • "I Google it."

  • So we googled it.

  • (Laughter)

  • Specifically, we googled "best employers for women in tech."

  • Our results showed three completely different lists.

  • One business shows up as the top employer on one list,

  • doesn't show up at all on another,

  • some lists offer no criteria

  • and some are purchased ads.

  • They're paid for.

  • Employees and employers both want clear benchmarks

  • that go beyond good intentions.

  • The LEED certification gave businesses this clarity

  • around environmental stewardship

  • by outlining the exact steps they need to take for certification.

  • We wanted businesses to have this kind of playbook for gender equity.

  • So for our second act,

  • we took what we had learned from testing these cultural levers,

  • we partnered with the University of Washington

  • and created the first standardized certification

  • for gender equity in US businesses.

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • To create this standard,

  • we had to learn what matters and what doesn't.

  • We found out that what matters

  • is not the total percentage of female employees.

  • Or the number of board members that are female.

  • Those are what we call vanity metrics.

  • They can be bought,

  • while the culture inside can still be out of balance.

  • The factors that matter and that should be measured

  • are under the surface.

  • For example,

  • even in organizations where equal percentages of women and men

  • state that they have had access to a mentor,

  • men's mentors are more likely to be in senior positions.

  • Reviewing our survey results,

  • men were twice as likely to state

  • they had been offered an opportunity to shadow someone in a senior role.

  • We're all used to hearing about the wage gap.

  • Hidden opportunity gaps like these are just as influential.

  • So when assessing a company's culture,

  • we measure these gaps between men's and women's experiences.

  • And the smaller the gap,

  • the more equity is center of the culture.

  • We also searched our findings

  • for the tenets of workplace culture

  • that are most important to men and most important to women.

  • We learned that only three factors consistently matter to men,

  • while a dozen matter to women.

  • And they only share one in common.

  • Topping the list for women:

  • Paid family leave,

  • health care for dependents

  • and feeling that their ideas are heard

  • and they're properly credited for them.

  • These are a few of the 188 indicators

  • that determine whether or not an organization

  • meets our quantitative standard for workplace equality.

  • Based on the data that matter.

  • These are the factors

  • to create a culture of equity that lasts.

  • Not just for a month or for a quarter

  • but for years.

  • So where does this leave us?

  • Women in the workforce today are constantly told,

  • "You can be anything you want now.

  • It's up to you."

  • Women of color,

  • for whom the wage gap is even larger,

  • have heard it.

  • The two-thirds of minimum-wage workers who are women have heard it.

  • Workers who don't identify as male or female

  • and hide their identity at work

  • have heard it.

  • If they can hear, "You can be anything you want now,

  • it's up to you,"

  • I believe it's time for our businesses to hear it, too.

  • Eliminating workplace bias is a tall order.

  • But we can't afford to let half our people go on