A Conversation on Gender in the Workplace

On November 20th, 2017, the Accelerate Leadership Center and Tepper Women in Business (TWIB) jointly presented a community conversation about Gender in the Workplace, focused around the controversial internal Google opinion memo written in July 2017.

Three panelists were invited to answer questions and share their viewpoints: Leanne Meyer of Accelerate Leadership Center, Dr. Peter Glick, Henry Merritt Wriston Professor in the Social Sciences at Lawrence University, and Neil Walker-Neveras, Managing Director at Deloitte.

Their varying perspectives were insightful and helpful to better form make sense of this scandal. Kicking off the conversation, Leanne Meyer expressed her dismay that Google fired the author and missed their opportunity to have an open conversation about it. Neil Walker-Neveras remarked that perhaps that Google made the conscious decision to move forward quickly, and let someone else have that discussion.

Regardless of Google’s right or wrong decision, this memo launched many questions: How should we think about gender at work, as an individual, male and/ or female… and as a part of our Tepper and work communities? How do we separate facts about gender differences from the skewed, sexist opinions?

Professor Glick laid it out clearly, “With gender, there are potentially differences that have evolved but it’s very much not settled science. We are very far from linking this to occupational preferences and abilities.” He continued, “This narrative of evolved is exaggerating science when it comes to abilities. You can just as easily spin it the other way [about men].”

So how do we change false misconceptions? Through our conversation, I learned that there’s not an easy answer. Men and women both need to champion female career development through equal opportunity and equal feedback. Diversity efforts should be coupled with inclusion efforts, or else they can backfire and isolate the majority.

We have a long way to go but it will undoubtedly prove to be worthwhile. Mr. Walker-Neveras gave many examples of female leadership talent from his Deloitte experiences and summed up succinctly, “Gender balance enriches leadership decisions.”

Christina Wang | MBA 2020 (Part-Time On-Campus)
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1 reply
  1. Brian Dennis
    Brian Dennis says:

    You make a good point about diversity efforts being coupled with inclusion efforts. There is much more diversity in America than in China, but how much is it contributing to innovation? We are missing a big opportunity by not exploiting one of our greatest resources: diversity.

    Breaking traditional gender roles in China is a huge obstacle for women in the workplace. The lack of scientific understanding surrounding gender and “natural ability” is pretty amazing. Gender equaltiy is even seen as a form of cultural invasion from the west, which should be resisted to preserve traditional values. It’s a tough battle for women here. Well, it’s a tough battle for women everywhere I guess.

    Reply

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