The Everyday Barriers That Continue to Hold Women Back

Manterrupting isn't a new problem, but has anything changed?

In early February of 2017, senators voted to silence Elizabeth Warren on the senate floor. Senator Warren’s colleague, Senator Angus King gave background on the situation. "What really bothered me about last night was the selective enforcement of this rule."

Just two years ago, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt participated in a panel on Silicon Valley gender and diversity issues. Schmidt repeatedly interrupted U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, the sole female panelist on stage with him during the talk.

On January 20, 2017, Senator Amy Klobuchar attended the inauguration with her fellow senators. In the senator's box, she was photographed with her colleagues. The photo later made the rounds on a number of news sites captioned ‘A woman takes a selfie with Senator John McCain and Senator Bernie Sanders…’

One doesn’t have to look far to find instances of sexism in even the highest places. Women across the world and at all levels of business can find themselves in these stories. Sexism is not always as blatant and malicious as it’s imagined. Every day women are spoken over/interrupted at meetings, overlooked for jobs, or expected to constantly prove their qualifications while the competence of their male colleagues is assumed.

These subtle challenges seem minute, but in fact, they’re done fairly regularly and much to the detriment of women. In a study by Kieran Snyder, it was proven that men not only interrupted twice as often as women but were nearly three times as likely to interrupt women as they were to interrupt other men. Research by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. shows that though men and women desire job promotions at the same rate (75 and 78% respectively), women are 15% less likely to be promoted.

While it’s easy to pass off interrupting and ignoring as harmless accidents, their effects are absolute and destructive. Being silenced, ignored and overlooked have been conditions of the female experience for too long. Unchecked, these barriers would continue to hold back women in the workplace. Fortunately, male awareness and female allyship can be great ways to tackle these problems.

When Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor, Senator King said. "I just don't think it was appropriate, particularly when it had been ignored in other situations fairly frequently since I've been around here."

When Senator Amy Klobuchar was overlooked in the news, the internet was quick to come to her defense. Beth Pitzel Commers wrote to Klobuchar: "I hope you take this caption as a challenge to make so much damn noise in DC for the next 4 years that they never overlook or forget your name again. Godspeed."

When Eric Schmidt interrupted Megan Smith, he was reprimanded by an audience member who also happened to be one of his own employees. Judith Williams, Google’s global diversity manager, raised her hand and asked Schmidt an uncomfortable question: “Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I’m wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times.” 

Allinium applauds the companies and individuals who are making a committed effort to acknowledge and admonish these behaviors. With the current shifts in business this is not only morally operative but professionally imperative. Corporations must make inclusive and diverse corporate cultures a priority if they hope to prosper during the upcoming talent war.

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