The last eight years or so of pro-working woman literature has hoped that data would do what appealing to an intrinsic American belief in fairness and equality could not.
And an amazing treasure trove of data has resulted.
“What Works for Women at Work” artfully debunks the “opt out” myth that women simply lose interest in work once they become mothers. It also showed how universal the bias women face on the job– across industries, race, and generations– can be.
“Getting to 50/50” unearthed a ton of data on why it’s in men’s interest that their wives work.
“Lean in” showed that women take themselves out of the running for raises and promotions before they’ve even become wives or mothers, or even found the person they want to settle down with.
Unconscious bias has been proved by endless studies where gender is obscured and men are regarded differently (and more positively) than women.
And copious more research by the major consulting firms, boutique firms, the Lean In Foundation, the Diana Project, Women.VC, the Kauffman Foundation and so many others have found– conclusively– that gender balanced teams perform better. That executives are only hurting themselves when they don’t diversify.
And yet, in tech at least– the recent “woke Crunchies” aside– there’s almost no progress when it comes to diversity in America.
And as I reported last week, three surveys have shown that most white men just don’t care. 95% didn’t list it as a top problem, the bulk still don’t believe unconscious bias is a major factor, 75% of these companies are doing absolutely nothing to address the gender and race divide, and 40% are sick of hearing about it.
The near decade long experiment to incentivize white men to act differently by using data and rational self interest has failed. It’s in the… ahem, numbers.
And that shouldn’t be a shock, given the country we live in now, where there’s widespread mistrust of the press, the data is citing fake terrorist attacks in Sweden, and he enjoys unwavering support from people who like that he “talks like them,” according to cable news interviews.
People only want data if it confirms their beliefs, not if it challenges them.
When you try to present data that shows that indeed white men aren’t listening to the data, you get a lot of push back from people who simply don’t want it out there. People who say women and minorities should stop “bitching” about the world and just work harder. That — hey!— white men don’t get everything they want either. That it must just be false. FAKE NEWS! (I’ve been flooded with both of these points of view over the last week via Twitter.)
But there’s a reason why I still keep reporting on data like this, and why I also have a shit load of data in my upcoming book on motherhood. Because while data will not change anyone’s mind that inclusion is a priority or even a good thing, it’s still useful for galvanizing and rallying men and women who do want a more inclusive world, but don’t quite know how to get there or how to demand their leaders take them there. It gives them evidence, talking points, and confidence to keep pushing their companies to do better.
When a manager says, “we’ve tried to hire women, we just don’t get the applicants!” data helps you explain why it’s up to companies to do better. When a manager says, “but women we’ve hired in the past just leave to be with their families” data helps you make the case that this could be a problem with the company’s bro-y culture. It makes the case that early gender and race inclusion on teams will make a meaningful difference down the line. Data on retention of working moms out of Google and other places makes the case that it’s in employer’s best interest to offer parental leave (which is why many of the largest companies and startups are.)
Data and role models are the best weapons we have, outside of more women just quitting jobs and starting their own investment firms and companies to make these decisions directly. And that’s why the super-woke Crunchies award ceremony didn’t bother me, while some people I spoke with felt it bordered on pandering.
The Crunchies has always reflective of the aspirational soul of Silicon Valley. A few years ago, in the peak of Disruption mania, that reflection was so bro’d up that Katie Stanton wrote this. Now in an age where women and minorities are taking to the streets to force their government and their tech leaders to do better, we get woke Crunchies. I’m fine with that shift, even if it doesn’t necessarily correspond to a shift in diversity among senior management. Let’s project it, til we make it. We’ve seen in the last two months the power of tech employees to push major change from below.
Knowing that it is in a manager’s self interest matters to employees, whether a company itself is woke enough to act on that or not. If nothing else, data is a mirror to hold up to your manager’s face: If employees present him with data showing inclusion and better policies should be in his self-interest, does it change the behavior?