by Kelley Connors, MPH

It was a light bulb moment last week when my young 14-year old niece, Grace, nudged me  “Will it really take another 100 years before there is gender parity in the workforce?”

After all, she reminded me, women have had the right to vote for almost 100 years.

“Yes, Grace”, I answered with humility. “We’re on it now”. When I hear that, I realize I’ve just underscored that gender bias comes down to us. It comes down to what Carolyn Buck Luce told a crowd of HBA Boston executive women last month.  “You need to take a stand. Not a position, but a stand for gender parity”.

That’s exactly why the global women’s leadership development organization’s recent panel discussion was led by Gail Evans, former executive VP at CNN and best-selling author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman.

Gail sat down with these three male executives in an open panel discussion: Nick Colucci, CEO, Publicis, Brian Goff, 2014, Honorable Mentor, executive vice president, hematology, Baxalta, Rob Movereley, regional VP operations – west region, Quest Diagnostics; and Stuart Sowder, 2015 Honorable Mentor, VP, external medical communications, Pfizer.

Questions explored included how women and men get promoted, the ingredients for leadership success, and what it will take for gender parity to be realized in the workforce?

Nick Colucci: Women and men get promoted differently. When a man has two of the five characteristics related to a new job posting, he’s knocks on my door and says he’s ready for the job. Women don’t knock on my door at all, unless they have all five characteristics. To women I would say, don’t focus on that fifth thing you don’t have. Women need to put yourself out there and take those risks. No one is ever totally prepared for that job.

Stuart Sowder: Ingredients for Leadership Success. Women need to get credit for work they’ve done. Men attribute their accomplishments to their skills and achievements. Women believe it was their team who should get the credit or that they got lucky. This is a big issue. Women need to step up and take ownership and accountability for their achievements.

Rob Moverley: What will it take to achieve gender parity? I don’t believe it will take 100 years to achieve gender parity. We already know about the power of the purse; women are the decision makers in healthcare. Companies won’t survive unless there is gender parity. But diversity must be part of middle management, the interview panel, for gender parity to be sustainable.

Obviously, the gender parity issue has not been lost on the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association which boasts 8,000 members, both men and women. Ron Carucci, managing director, Navalent, Author, Rising to Power, told me in a telephone interview that it’s past bedtime with this issue.   “It can’t be 50-50 with regard to hiring. It must be 65-35 for the next ten years to get women at the top. We know it is a decisive factor in performance and possibility.”

Kelley Connors is a Wellbeing Coach for Busy Working Women and Digital Innovator at Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association

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