What should corporations be doing to encourage women to advance? Are the usual solutions, such as offering flex-time, enough — or do we need to think bigger?
Vineet Nayar, the CEO of an Indian IT services company, makes the forceful case in the Harvard Business Review that “the corporate world has largely failed women.” He writes that “some of the world’s best managers are mothers” – but they’re getting lost in the “leaking leadership pipeline” because corporations are too rigid.
First, there are the obvious solutions: flexible work hours, day care, etc. But Nayar wants us to think bigger: “Companies must create organizations that are aligned, culturally and emotionally, with woman employees’ priorities.” That means – among other things — mentoring, evolved organizational models, and an understanding that employees shouldn’t have to be available 24/7.
Most radically, Nayar suggests that employers should “find ways around women’s reticence to advocate for themselves.”
Nayar isn’t letting women themselves off the hook. He presses women to be more ambitious, especially at three particular “watershed career moments.” The first is deciding on the course of higher education, particularly professional courses. The second is when it’s time negotiate your first salary, a stage when women traditionally fall behind because of our hesitance to negotiate. And the third is when women are due a promotion, when they too often “aspire for less than they deserve.”
But what would it look like for an organization to accommodate the fact that women are so hesitant to negotiate higher salaries and promotions for themselves? Would there be more frequent employee reviews? A promotion system less reliant on employees putting themselves forward? A more transparent salary scheme? It’s hard for me to picture — it might not even be feasible! — but it’s a great, bold question.