Looking back at the countless, high-profile, sexual harassment allegations that continue to pour in, it's fair to say, 2017 was a brutal year.
It was especially daunting on the leadership front. There's no doubt, with more individuals in positions of power and influence being exposed, we are faced with a crisis -- the absence of true leadership.
Whether in the halls of Congress or the halls of a small business in middle-America, most of these issues we are now confronted to deal with are, unquestionably, leadership issues.
The first order of priority to make the workplace a safe place for all is to identify and place the right leaders -- those with character and moral excellence running through their veins -- in positions to swiftly challenge the pervasive status quo.
It's not so much a skill as it is a mindset, which can translate into a series of transforming skills for the workplace. I speak of a conscious leader with the unquenchable desire to make things right through fairness, equality, and the fight against gender bias. This is a visionary leader with the skill of valuing human beings at work, regardless of whether they wear pants or skirts. This leader at your workplace will immediately work toward changing three underlying factors that hold back the workplace from reaching its maximum potential:
According to a press release by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), new U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that women working full time on average "still make 80 cents compared to every dollar men make." At the current rate of progress in closing the gap, states the report, "women will not receive pay equity until the year 2119."
While so many tech companies -- Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Uber -- find themselves in class-action gender-discrimination suits (according to The New Yorker), the leader who will make a huge splash in 2018 is the one who looks at the existing gender pay gap and says, with righteous indignation, "We will not tolerate that here."
Leaders have to be intentional about eliminating bias by ensuring that their hiring and promotion practices have clear policy and guidelines against it, and that there are checks and balances in place where salaries between genders are regularly reviewed for parity.
Until conscious leaders operating on the values of integrity, fairness, and impartiality crush the toxic power values of misogynistic work cultures and male white privilege, we'll continue to witness more sexual harassment allegations and the widening of the gender pay gap.
As Harvard Business Review reported, harassment is more common in workplaces where men hold most managerial jobs. "We already know how to reduce sexual harassment at work, and the answer is actually pretty simple: Hire and promote more women," write the authors.
That's an uphill climb that will require extensive shifts along the workplace landscape. Last year, The Washington Post reported that women make up less than five percent of the chief executives at the biggest corporations, and just under 20 percent of directors at S&P 500 companies.
Another major new study conducted by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. revealed alarming data on promotions, attrition and career outcomes between men and women. Out of 34,000 men and women surveyed at 132 companies, "the disparity begins at entry level, where men are 30 percent more likely than women to be promoted to management roles." The report adds, "It continues throughout careers, as men move up the ladder in larger numbers and make up the lion's share of outside hires."
In that same Women in the Workplace 2017 report, we see light at the end of the tunnel but with a cost. Companies are becoming increasingly more committed to gender diversity once studies began exposing the uncomfortable truth: "Women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for thirty years and counting," states the report.
Despite this newfound commitment, the data shows progress continues to be too slow--and may even be stalling. Why? The reports alludes to that prevalent blind spot found in leaders in male-dominated positions who can't solve a problem they can't see or understand clearly.
That's where a different leader with a progressive and growth mindset comes in. It's a leader who truly values diversity (not just gender diversity, but diversity in race, culture, personality type, individuality of style, thought and creativity), and one that doesn't suffer from the same prevailing blind spot of the old guard. They understand diversity for its enormous potential for human performance and business impact.
The leaders that will make the most impact in 2018 will celebrate differences in people on teams and across functions, and gain the strength that comes from those differences.
They do this with one aim in mind: to build a healthy and productive work community where there is a steady flow and diversity of ideas, and fresh perspectives that lead to results.
They hold themselves accountable to make sure diversity is happening operationally. For example, you'll find such leaders measuring the demographics in their talent pipeline of incoming talent as well as existing talent for promoting people equitably.
This is the noble leadership mindset we so desperately need in 2018. But it has to stretch beyond it. I believe, if multiplied and replicated across companies and generations, we can collectively reconstruct workplaces where our future mothers and daughters can come to work without a hint of fear, because they know they can trust their leaders and co-workers alike.