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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Closing the Gender Divide

By Mike Sorohan msorohan@mba.org
March 4, 2019

Topics:
mPower
Joanne Lipman
Gender Divide

mPowerLipmanORLANDO--Joanne Lipman, former editor-in-chief of USA Today, wrote That's What She Said about what women say--and what men need to know.

"It's about the experiences that women face every day," Lipman said during the mPower luncheon here at the Mortgage Bankers Association's National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo. "And we haven't been talking to men about that."

Lipman recounted a few years ago she was on a plane sitting next to a man who, upon learning that she was going to speak at a women's empowerment conference, threw his hands in the air. "He had just undergone three days of diversity training and said the message he got was ‘it's all mens' fault,'" she said.

Lipman realized that a communications gap existed. "He had a point," she said. "Standard diversity training has failed. At some companies, women and minorities suffered more after diversity training because the training resulted in resentment."

It's not just a "pipeline" problem, Lipman said. "Women earn more than half of college degrees, but they are not rising to the top," she said. "They earn 61 percent of what men earn. Women can be part of more than one disadvantaged group."

The problems are also subtle. "It's these unconscious biases we have that we might not even know exist," Lipman said. "They are threaded throughout our day and illustrate why we have this problem."

And, Lipman said, the biases start earlier. "As moms, we underestimate the ability of boys starting to crawl before girls," she said. "In college, a woman has to have an ‘A' average to be considered an equal to a man with a ‘B' average. We are not valued for what we are worth."

"The issue is not just the pay gap, Lipman said. It extends to simple values. "Women are interrupted three times more frequently than men," she said. "Women's voices are not heard. A woman must be two-and-a-half times more competent to be seen as equal to a man."

There are solutions, Lipman said:

--Interrupt the Interrupters. "You have to listen for that person who interrupts," Lipman said. "We've had some executives who created a ‘no-interruption' rule at meetings. It transforms the meeting."

--Amplification and "Brag Buddies." Amplification is what someone suggests, identifying it by name, "so if Bob repeats the idea two minutes later, he doesn't get credit for an idea that a woman came up with," Lipman said.

--Bias Busters. "Companies can do a lot to change their culture," Lipman said. "Leadership must own diversity--it starts with senior leadership before it can work on a larger scale."

Gender equality is not a "female" issue, Lipman said. "Working together--men and women--we can and will change the world."

Since its inception in 2016, mPower has reached more than 6,000 women through more than two dozen events nationwide.

"It takes a community. The mPower network is so inspiring to watch--doing business with each other, connecting with each other," said MBA COO and mPower Founder Marcia Davies.

The task remains daunting, Davies said, noting that sizable gaps persist in leadership roles held by women in Fortune 100 companies and smaller enterprises. "We need to own our voice," she said. "We can make a difference in the marketplace."

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