The days of female rivalry and “one seat at the table” are over. It’s time we encourage women, especially in male-dominated industries, to stand up for themselves and each other. Extensive research shows the value that women leaders add, and certain industries are recognizing the need to invest in women’s development and create more opportunities at the top. These efforts are beginning to help move the needle.
For instance, according to Castell Project’s Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership 2020 report, the number of women leaders in the industry is on the rise. The report cites a 20 percent increase in women CEOs, a higher percentage of women in non-CEO leadership roles, and increased likelihood of women in hospitality reaching executive positions.
Women in senior positions are ready not only to show up as role models, but to stand up for themselves and other underestimated people at work, including but not limited to other women. Here are some proven techniques.
Speak Up to Support Others
When you hear or witness something inappropriate, you’ve got to speak up. Silence is no different than condoning bad behavior. Choose a phrase like “I didn’t find that funny,” or “I’m surprised to hear you say that.” This shows women and men what behavior is and is not acceptable. When a woman gets interrupted (which happens twice as often as it does to men), try saying “Hold on, I’d really like to hear X finish her thought.”
“Hepeating” is where a woman’s idea doesn’t get noticed until her male peer repeats it. Then suddenly it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Women can work together to combat this through amplification. That’s where women reiterate and build on each other’s ideas, making sure the woman responsible gets the credit. You can call out “hepeating” by asking, “How is that different from the suggestion X just made?”
Use these techniques yourself, and teach them to the women around you so they will have a greater sense of control. Women can work together to fight everyday sexism without calling people out, and without shaming or blaming.
Demand Diverse Candidates
Ensure your hiring process is fair and unbiased by training recruiters and hiring managers in behavioral interview skills and unconscious bias. Tell HR and Recruiting that you expect to see qualified people from a variety of genders, backgrounds and social identities for every open role. Don’t accept the excuse that there’s a lack of qualified women candidates. Once you have a diverse pipeline, measure the success rate of diverse candidates to make sure it’s on par with that of the majority.
Underestimated candidates may display their skills, abilities, passion and confidence in a multitude of ways. For instance, in some cultures eye contact is frowned upon. Women are encouraged to be humble, and confident women can face criticism if they’re viewed as bragging. These are only a couple of examples. Stylistic differences like these don’t mean underestimated candidates are less capable, passionate or have less potential. Train everyone involved in hiring to assess candidates objectively, and look for people who add to — not just fit — the company culture.
Take Bets on Women
When I was a recruiter, one hiring manager passed on a brilliant young woman hardware engineer because she “wasn’t passionate.” I wish I had known then what I know now about gendered feedback. I knew she was an excellent candidate, but they couldn’t see past their own stereotypes. Because of this, the team lost out.
Society teaches us (wrongly) that confidence and charisma correlate strongly with good performance. It’s easy to get charmed by the wrong candidate. When I interviewed my operations manager, she seemed like a quiet, serious young woman. She said in a soft voice, “What’s made me successful is that I anticipate what executives need, and I get it done before they even ask.” I later learned her nickname at work was “the killer” because she was so productive.
Pay Everyone What They’re Worth
In the past, equal pay didn’t receive the necessary scrutiny and today, women are still paid less than men. Women of color are paid less than white women, and parents are paid less than those without children. When companies ask for a person’s salary history, it perpetuates a system where women are paid less. Paying people according to the job they’ll perform vs. what they made in the past is one way to disrupt bias in compensation.
My company has six staff members and over 30 consultants, about two-thirds of whom are women. I’ve noticed men, on average, ask for higher salaries. Sometimes women say salary doesn’t matter to them as much as the quality and impact of the work. My response is to pay people equally for the work they perform, regardless of what they expect. I would encourage you to do the same.
While we won’t wake up tomorrow in a world that’s bias free, we’re moving in the right direction at work. Women leaders, in particular, are creating teams and organizations where women can bring their whole selves to work and reach their full potential. The more you role model strong leadership and create inclusive policies and practices, the more all of your people will thrive, regardless of gender.
A version of this article was originally published by Women Leading Travel & Hospitality’s sister brand, Women in Retail Leadership Circle.