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Woman in the Workplace or How not to be Larry Summers

The fact that woman continue to be under represented in key areas of the work place is nothing new. Less than five percent of the Fortune 1000 companies are led by woman. Although woman earn about half the doctorates in science and engineering, they account for less than 25% of the full time professor positions. This leadership gap is compounded by a wage gap where woman are paid less for the same job. In 2012, earnings for women in full-time management, professional, and related occupations were only 72% of men’s.

Why is this a problem? As Catalyst, a nonprofit organization points out, companies that exclude women from leadership lose out on half of the talent pool, and the profitability and innovation that diversity brings. Gallup polls have also shown that inclusive companies that support diversity in hiring tend to have greater productivity, higher customer satisfaction and lower turn-over. So aside from doing the right thing for women there are strong business reasons for hiring well-qualified women.

So what can you do to help? This month, a collective blog written by women in academia, delivers clever tips on how men can be allies in the broader cause of equality. The blog called “Don’t be that dude, Handy tips for the male academic” offers a range of ideas from paying more attention to gender ratios when hiring or developing a review board to being cognizant about not propagating stereotypes such as having women organize celebrations and events. Although the blog specifically targets academics, the lessons are broadly applicable.

Outdated and misguided perspectives can also have lasting negative implications. Take the case of Larry Summers. His comments in 2005 about the inequality of men and women haunt him today and were probably one of the top reasons why his candidacy for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve was not widely supported. On a more positive note, it is always gratifying to see steps being made towards equality and the celebration last month of women’s equality day by the current administration is a great step forward.

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