I can do power poses like no one’s business. Strong eye contact, shoulders back, spine straight. But also making sure to sit at a slight angle so I don’t look “too aggressive.” Staring at myself awkwardly in the mirror, I’ve practiced comebacks for common arguments to why I should be paid less. And I’ve even used cute phrases like “wiggle room” to soften the blow of –-gasp—a woman asking to be paid more!
But the truth is, I can do power poses for the rest of my life and I still won’t be paid the same as my male counterparts. Because individuals can only get so far within a system that’s constantly pushing back on them.
As Ruchika Tulshyan writes in her new book, The Diversity Advantage: Fixing Gender Inequality in the Workplace, “too much of the existing narrative focuses on ‘fixing women’—getting more women to negotiate, assert, demand, be confident and ‘lean in’ to leadership.”
Instead, if we take a closer look, we see that gender inequality is something that we unintentionally built right into the structures of our businesses. With the example of negotiation, we know that we have social stigma against women asking for more money. But we keep salaries secret, we keep requiring employees to negotiate, and we keep penalizing women for it.
Perhaps we’re ready turn the tables, to evolve our workplaces so that they work for women, as well as men. Because our old systems were designed for a different time, and a different workforce. And frankly, we’ve outgrown them.
That doesn’t mean that we have to demolish our way of doing business altogether—but we do need to be open to a steady stream of renovations.
The good news? These investments will also benefit the business.