Written by Katie Johnston
Companies have been talking up their commitment to gender equity for years. Yet when it comes to female leadership, not much has changed.
Just 10 percent of the top executive positions in the 1,500 largest publicly traded companies in the country are held by women, according to Pew Research.
Recently, however, companies have started taking concrete steps to boost the ranks of women in management, going far beyond the vague promises of unconscious-bias training and mentorship programs.
They are signing public pledges to interview women for every high-level position. Others are making an increase in female leadership a factor in employee bonuses. Some obsessively track male-to-female ratios department by department — and make adjustments when the numbers get out of whack.
“You make something part of a process, it normalizes it,” said Sandra O’Sullivan, chief people officer at the Waltham cybersecurity firm Carbon Black.
Last summer, Carbon Black signed the ParityPledge, an initiative launched in 2017 by the nonprofit Parity.org, which has commitments from nearly 400 companies to interview at least one qualified woman for every opening at the vice president level or above.
Carbon Black took the pledge further, extending it to lower-level manager jobs and to people of color as well as women, requiring that at least two such candidates make it to the interview stage for each of these openings. Its intake form for recruiters contains a box that gets checked when a job requires a woman or person of color to get to the interview stage.
Carbon Black is also downplaying referrals from current workers, O’Sullivan said, because, in a field dominated by white men, their professional networks are not necessarily diverse.
Amy Appleyard found out about the Parity Pledge when Carbon Black reached out to her about a job and she started reading up on the company.
Appleyard, then at the tech company LogMeIn, was intrigued. She thought, “I wonder if I’m that one woman?” (Carbon Black declined to say if other women were interviewed for the job). The pledge itself wasn’t discussed during the interview process, but Appleyard, who eventually got the job running the global inside sales team, said knowing that gender equity mattered was important to her.
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