Closing the Gap: Achieving Gender Parity in the C-Suite

Friday, March 16, 2018
Aaron Bernstein/Reuters
Dominic Barton

Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, Inc. 

Ellen Kullman

Co-Chair, Paradigm for Parity; Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, DuPont

Joanne Lipman

Editor-in-Chief, USA Today

Speakers discuss gender disparity in corporate boardrooms, and what businesses can do to promote diversity and inclusion in the global labor market.

LIPMAN: All right. Welcome, everyone. I see some of you are still getting your food, but have a seat, please. Welcome to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting. We’re talking today about “Closing the Gap: Achieving Gender Parity in the C-Suite.”

And with us today we have Ellen Kullman, who’s the co-chair of Paradigm for Parity, as well as the former CEO and chairman of DuPont. And via videoconference, joining us is Dominic Barton, global managing partner of McKinsey & Co.

I’m Joanne Lipman. I’m a former editor-in-chief of USA Today and the author of the new book That’s What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together—(laughter)—which is about closing the gender gap at work largely by bringing men into the conversation. And I will be presiding over today’s discussion.

So, first of all, thank you, Ellen. Thank you, Dominic. Both of you play actually a prominent role in my book That’s What She Said because you are examples of—good examples of what organizations and executives are trying to do to close the gender gap, and particularly at mobilizing men to help with women in closing that gap.

So I want to just start quickly with a brief overview of the landscape. We know from research—and McKinsey and Paradigm have both done quite a bit of research on this—and we know that having women in leadership positions makes all the difference. It leads to greater financial success. McKinsey and LeanIn has found that companies with the most gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers. Companies with chief financial officers who are female make fewer but more successful acquisitions. Firms with the most female board members outperform those with the least by virtually every financial measure.

So, yet, the gender gap is as wide or in some cases wider than ever. Women, the latest research tells us, make up just 5.2 percent of S&P 500 CEOs, 21 percent of board members, less than that of the C-suite. And McKinsey and LeanIn, they’ve been surveying for the last three years thousands of employees a year, and they found that women are just as ambitious as men, and yet are less likely to be promoted than men at every level. They’re less likely to be mentored. They’re less likely to have access to senior leaders in their organizations.

And so, Dominic, if we could start with you, McKinsey’s research also found that 90 percent of top executives say that gender diversity is a high priority for them, but only about half of their own employees agree with that statement. And nearly 50 percent of men believe that women already are well-represented in leadership—and these are men from companies, by the way, in which only 10 percent of senior leadership is female. So, Dominic, if we could ask you the question, how do we get men involved? How do we get them to care and get them involved to help solve the gender gap if they don’t see that there’s a problem in the first place?

BARTON: Well, thank you, and thanks for having me. I hope it’s OK doing this by video.

But I completely agree with you. It’s remarkable that men sort of think, when—even though there is a big challenge, that there isn’t one as they go through it. And I think that there’s a couple of things at least we found through the work with LeanIn that would help move the dial.

One is just to reinforce what you said at the very outset, which is that this is a(n) economic issue, not a moral issue, if you will. You know, companies perform better if there are more—if there’s more diversity and there’s more women involved in leadership, whether it be in management or the board.

And, secondly, how can you claim that you’re a talent-driven organization if you have less than 50 percent women? I think it’s just useful to reinforce the economics beside it.

And then I think it’s important for men to actually be involved. So having—if you’re going to have a program on diversity, don’t have it be led by a woman. Have it be led by men, the unconscious bias training, you know, that goes on. What we found, by the way, in McKinsey is we did it voluntarily at first, and those men that actually thought they didn’t need the training were, in fact, the ones that needed the most training as they go through it. (Laughter.) So I think you got to kind of drive—everyone has to take it and understand it.

And I think it has to, finally, be a top three priority for the CEO, for the—especially if it’s a man talking about it. I won’t—I don’t want to go on here, but one story I’ll just tell you is when we did this work with LeanIn and we would survey employees on what the CEO felt, I asked how I did, almost sort of smugly thinking that I must be, you know, doing very well. And I remember talking to the team, three members of the four-person team walked away when I asked. (Laughter.) And—(inaudible)—said, well, you know, I’m afraid to tell you something. Even though I thought we should just walk the talk, not talk the talk, so I had appointed a lot of women in roles. And they said the interesting thing, Dom, is that 70 percent of the men think you make women a top three priority, but less than 40 percent of the women do because you never talk about it. They wouldn’t know. There was a huge gap. And so I think you have to make it a priority, then you have to talk about it a lot.

Those would just be some things, I’d say.

LIPMAN: I want to move to Ellen for a moment, but could you just elaborate for one moment on what did you do after you found that women didn’t think it was a priority for you?

BARTON: Well, I got really upset was the first thing. (Laughter.) I was—I actually—(laughs)—I actually—I got—I got mad at some people. (Laughs.) What we decided to do is we made our—the very next partners’ conference we held, global partners’ conference we held in San Francisco, and we had only women CEOs speak to the partnership, just to drive the point home, and had people come in and talk about, you know, what this meant. So that was a—just trying to sort of overdo the signaling, if you will—(laughs)—about where it is. That was the—sort of the first thing we did.

LIPMAN: And so, Ellen, Paradigm for Parity, it’s a coalition of business leaders. You are—you have the goal of achieving gender parity in the workplace by 2030. That seems really close, closer every day. How are we doing against your goal?

KULLMAN: So, I mean, we started in 2015, and then it felt like it was a long way away. (Laughter.) But as we approach 2020, it does seem like it’s getting closer.

We have about 68, almost 70 companies signed up today. It’s a CEO commitment, top-led, and they commit to gender parity in—at the senior ranks as well by 2030, and—by implementing a five-point plan simultaneously.

One is reduce or eliminate unconscious bias through continual training. And when I went through it, I actually found out I was part of the problem, that I had some biases that I had to deal with as well. My senior men in the room were very happy to hear that because, you know, it wasn’t about them, it was about us kind of thing.

I think the second thing is that you really have to set goals. You have to understand and set maybe an interim goal. And several companies in our fold have had an interim goal of 30 percent women in senior leadership ranks in addition to parity by 2020, and so driving in that direction and getting to 50 percent by 2030.

You have to know your numbers, number three, and it is about data. I mean, one of the things that I always used in my workplace when I was hit with the, well, you don’t understand how hard it is to find women for these roles, I say, well, MIT graduates 50 percent women; why don’t you start there? I mean, from a technical and science base. And I made sure my guys knew their numbers—how many were they bringing in, how many were they promoting, how many were attritting, therefore where were they on their journey. And, you know, when you lay out the facts, you know, it’s very interesting. They could explain a job not being—you know, having a different gender in it, but they couldn’t explain the forest, right?

And I think, lastly, one of the most important—or two things, last—one of the most important things is sponsorship versus mentorship. You know, a lot of times—mentorship is here’s what you need to do to develop. Sponsorship is when you’re sitting in the room when jobs are being discussed, you’re going to talk about what that woman can do in that job that you’re—that you’re sponsoring. Men have natural sponsors in many organizations; women don’t.

And, lastly, it is about the HR systems. Are they truly measuring performance or are they measuring face time? Now, with the implementation of many flexible programs in corporations, there’s been this kind of separation. Do those who utilize the flexible programs, are they rated lower? And so truly—really understanding about the performance aspects of it.

And so what we found is that companies like Accenture, who are really ahead of the curve here and one of our member companies, they’ve actually moved up their goal. They say they’ll get to gender parity even at the senior ranks by 2025. And we’re finding it is—does matter that the CEO is the one that’s not only signing for this and committing to it, but is actively talking about it and making sure that his people are taking action.

LIPMAN: Yeah, can I just actually reemphasize that point? That’s one thing in researching That’s What She Said, which I talked to senior executives across the country who were trying to actively close the gap, and that is the one common factor is it is owned by the CEO and it’s owned also by the CFO, the chief financial officer, understanding that this is a business imperative. And the companies that were doing the poorest were those that essentially offloaded to HR and basically were just checking a box. I think that’s an incredibly important point.

You mentioned hiring targets. And I’d love to hear from both of you on how you feel about hiring targets versus quotas. Dominic, perhaps you want to go first.


LIPMAN: You, I believe, have a target for entry-level women.

BARTON: Yeah. We also—just exactly what Ellen said, we tried to set a target of 40 percent women by 2020, and we did that in 2014. I’m now afraid on that one. But my view is—and people thought I was crazy, which may be true. But the point is if you don’t set big ambition, you don’t break orthodoxies in terms of how we do it. And the only way we can begin to move that is actually on the intake.

And Ellen mentioned the MIT number. You know, it’s—there’s no excuse for us not having a higher proportion of women, you know, then we’ve had before. And our—when I looked at our sort of numbers when we were looking on the recruiting side, 27 percent of the incoming class were women in 2014, and that’s just not acceptable. I mean, part of it was because I think many women said I’m not sure I really want to work in a place like this. They work like mad dogs, I’m not sure this is—you know, there’s all sorts of images about it. So whatever it is, it’s not good enough.

And we—our view is we said we’ve got to get that number up to 40 percent by 2018. We’re now at 37 percent. In some offices we’re at 55 (percent). And it’s not meant to say—it’s like a quota, but it’s an aspiration. And what people are doing is saying, you know what, there are—there are a lot of talented women that we can try and attract if we work at it. And so I do think setting—having an ambition on the intake is critical or we won’t be able to—there’s no way we’ll be able to get to the targets that Ellen is laying out.

LIPMAN: So, Dominic, we’re actually not sure where in the world you are right now, what country you’re in.

KULLMAN: London.

LIPMAN: You’re in London?

BARTON: (Laughs.) Yeah.

LIPMAN: But a number of European countries already have board quotas, 30 percent board quotas or more.


LIPMAN: Is that something that you would sign onto?

BARTON: I’m not so—I don’t think so. I’m not a fan of quotas because I think the evidence is mixed as to whether it’s driving the change. But I—but I do think that there should be high—what I like is more what Ellen’s laying out, which is there’s targets that people are aiming for that are bold, and then we drive it through, because I think the thing we don’t want to do—you know, everything’s a meritocracy in everything that we do, and I think that that has to be maintained. But we can do both, if you will. They don’t have to come at the cost—there’s no cost to it. So I would be more for the being public about it, about the aspiration, so it will be embarrassing.

I mean, maybe I could say luckily for me I’m going to be gone by 2020. (Laughter.) But I’ve said it so much that—(chuckles)—that people, you know, know. But we just—I think we just have to set publicly high numbers, and then to your point measure how we’re doing against it, publicly report it, and talk—and talk—and talk about where we are and what some of the challenges are.

LIPMAN: So, you know, Ellen, I’d actually love to get your point of view on women now have—are more than all—more than half of all college graduates. If the pipeline theory holds true, that you just need more women in the pipeline, women would now be 50 percent of all CEOs. So what do you think is—what are the primary reasons, do you think, that we haven’t made more progress than we have?

KULLMAN: Well, I think that it’s easy to say but it’s hard work. And so I do think that the facts are is that when I’d ask some of my businesses why they weren’t making progress, I mean, I’d ask to see data; well, you know, how many are you bringing in? Well, 25 percent. Well, how many are you interviewing?

So, you know, we had to first go back and change with our own recruiting people and the recruiting firms we used, no, I mean, we want a—I want a slate of candidates that’s 50/50. And so you’ve got to—you got to go back to the beginning and really try to work that through, and you have to stay focused on it.

And that’s why every one of my—you know, my reviews with the businesses that were in detail, you know, every quarter is they’d have a single chart to explain where they were on gender and diversity. And it was how many they were bringing in, how many were coming up, how many were leaving, and therefore where were they. And it was all on one page, and you could have that discussion.

And if you discuss it every quarter, they are very competitive as a group, and they want to show they’re making progress. So all of a sudden it becomes not my priority, it becomes their priority. And so—and you need to push that down in the organization because the top of the house can be committed but that viscous middle, where my people would always say where all the real work gets done, are people who are driving to deliver results, and it’s going to take me longer to hire someone if I demand a diverse—so you got to make it easier for them by giving them the tools and giving them areas where they can actually go to to get help to make this happen.

LIPMAN: Now, you also mention unconscious bias. And I know, Dominic, that at McKinsey you also do the unconscious bias training. I mean, is that one of the issues? I mean, one of the pieces of research I ran across was very interesting. It was Rice University had done a computer model of a company that’s 50/50 at the entry level, male/female, and they programmed in a 1 percent bias against women, which is almost imperceptible. By the time you get to the top of that company, it’s 65 percent male. So there’s—unconscious bias clearly does play a role. You know, Dominic, in your own firm, which is still overwhelmingly male at the top, would you say that? Are there other factors that you think that are the major reason why we’re not seeing more progress?

BARTON: Well, I definitely think unconscious bias is a—is a big driver of it. I mean, we—just to your point, when we do recruiting, we’re using a machine, you know, that would sort of—artificial intelligence, if you will, to be able to look at C.V.s, because we get about 750,000 applications for 4,900 roles. And we have 500 people full-time kind of just looking at C.V.s. Ninety percent of those people are women, and we’re so conservative we’re worried about the machines. So we’ve done—we have people look at 100,000 and then we have the machine do it, and what we found is the machine is 10 percent less biased against women than the actual people that are looking at it—which, by the way, tend to be women. It’s a bit what Ellen was saying. (Chuckles.) Even women have unconscious bias on it. So I think that that’s a big driver, as you said, and that number flicks through.

But then I think it’s also about role models. We don’t—in the place where we are, we only have—we have 16 percent of our partners being women, which is not anywhere near good enough. There’s not a lot of role models to look at in terms of where we’re moving. And so at least I have the belief that if we can get to 33 percent, there’s a tipping point. I think once you get to a third, 33 percent in it, that, to me, is a critical milestone. I think we can start to shift it. And we have to make sure that we appoint more women in leadership roles to—in line roles through the organization for people to see it.

And then there’s, of course, the flexibility—I don’t think there’s a silver bullet I guess if what I’m saying. I think you have to—you have to do four or five things, like what Ellen was saying. I was taking notes, you know; it’ s the goals, it’s the measures, but it’s also the flexibility programs that you put in place—which, by the way, are good for everyone, not just women. They’re good for—we’re finding it’s helping everyone. But we have to work at every single lever we have or it’s—you know, we’re not going to make the progress we need to.

LILPMAN: What would be some solutions that we think would actually move the needle? So you mentioned a few. In the U.K., where you are now, they have just passed a law—it’s just gone into effect, I should say—a gender wage-gap analysis, where companies need to publicly report what is the wage gap between men and women. And we’ve seen some really startling figures—I think there was one hat came out day from HSSBS—wait, HH—yes—that said I think it was—HSBC, excuse me, revealed a 59 percent pay gap. Barclays reported it pays women less than half of what it pays men, largely because there aren’t women in enough leadership roles. Would something like that be effective here in the United States?

KULLMAN: Well, I think you get an argument about the metric as opposed to any real focus on resolving it, right? And I do think that when you talk about unconscious bias, there’s individual bias each one of us has, but there’s structural bias as well. And some of the structural biases relate to, well, a man gets promoted in 18 months, but the women, we wait till 30 because we want to be sure. And so when structural bias like that creeps into companies—and we—I found it in my own company, and I allowed it to occur when I was a(n) individual business leader, and I learned from that—but what you find out is that 10 years’ hence the men are much further, the men are paying a lot more—paid a lot more than the women. Just, you know, having a differential in time to promotion can create that.

So I think you have to get after the inputs, right, not the—the output is pay differential. The inputs are how many are you promoting, are you promoting them at the same rate and the same timeframe, you know, or do you have the flexible programs that are going to allow them? I mean, one of the things that people kept looking at me and saying you’re crazy is because I have three kids. And, you know, I had my kids later, so when I was a senior leader I had, like, grade-school kids, right? And so, you know, but you just figure it out and you get it done. And it certainly helped me make sure that DuPont had the right kind of programs that would help not only me, but everyone type of thing. But I do think it’s about really understanding what is driving you to go from—if you’re hiring 50 percent into the company, why, when you get to the middle-management ranks, you’re down to 25 percent women? So what are the things that are—you know, that are not enabling them to go further, and work on those.

LIPMAN: So, Dominic, are you on the same camp about the wage gap analysis? I know that, you know, some companies that did it—one of the ones that I spoke to was PwC, which decided to publicize its wage gap earlier, before the law went into effect. And they said it was actually highly motivating, just the fact that—you know, they knew the numbers internally, but the fact that you put the numbers out there in the public is very, very motivating to get to the bottom of where the issues are and how we can fix them.

BARTON: Yeah, I’m all for actually publishing this too. I think it’s a good—it’s part of the transparency, I think, right, of putting it there. It makes you ask the questions.

I mean, and I agree with Ellen. I think some of it, the gap, is because there’s not enough senior women. It’s not as though a senior woman is paid less than the equivalent senior men, but that’s a challenge—that just reinforces that it has to shift. So I think that is good.

The other part I wonder about is when we start to get investors to ask these questions, right, at some point. And, you know, that—you know, they don’t—investors don’t ask enough, in my view, even about talent, though you saw Bill McNabb at Vanguard saying I want to see what the talent plan is. I think, again, you know, we start to—I think there’s the internal sort of management and reviews. But I think it would also be good if you—if we believe what you said at the outset, which I do, that more diverse management teams and more diverse boards lead to better results, well, we should be pushing to see some of these metrics.

So I think they’re really good to put out, even though, honestly, they’re a bit embarrassing, especially because we write a lot about it and then we’ve got to deal with some numbers that don’t quite match up to what we—(laughs)—we write about. But I still think it’s worth doing.

LIPMAN: So let’s talk for a moment about when women do make it into senior leadership. Ellen, you are one of the very few women who has led a major corporation. One of the theories that’s out there is about the glass cliff, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, which is—which holds that female CEOs are more frequently put in place when a company is in a precarious position. One study found 42 percent of female executives were appointed during times of crisis, which was about double the percentage of men. And then my own industry, the media industry, we are at fault here as well. Rockefeller Foundation did some really interesting work that found that when a company is in trouble, 80 percent of news reports blame the CEO if the CEO is a woman; only a minority of news reports blame the CEO if it’s a man.

I’m wondering, in your experience, did you find that to be the case? You know, what’s your take on the glass cliff? And did you find that you were in a position of being targeted for being female?

KULLMAN: Well, you know, I tend to not go there because I have never used my gender as a reason for anything. But, you know, I too was named at a time of crisis for the company. You know, we like to say, a group of us women CEOs who were together one time, our reasoning was, well, we’re just better than they are, and that’s why they needed us during that tough time. (Laughter.) That’s what we’d like to believe. But, you know, and we don’t shrink from it, right, I mean, and so we attack it head on.

I do think the media places an unrealistic—we have to look good and be competent at the same time. They never comment on what a man wears, how his hair looks, but I’ve heard those about women CEO, women senior leaders. And so media can help by kind of leveling that playing field.

But, you know, I don’t—I don’t want to make it about blame. I think—I look forward. I’m always one that says the reality is what it is; what are we going to do to make it better? What action—you know, what can I do as a leader, what can we do collectively to create a better outcome for our children?

Because, frankly, the reason that I joined with Jewelle Bickford and Sandy Beach Lin to create Paradigm for Party was I saw my own daughter dealing with the same things I dealt with in the ’80s. And that made me crazy because I had thought she would have—she’s 27 now—she would have a(n) easier time. And what I found out in talking to my peers is that all of our daughters kind of face this in different industries in different ways. And so if we’re not willing to step up and make it better for the successive generations, who will?

LIPMAN: Yeah, I think that is a phenomenal point, is a really, really important point. And I wonder if the two of you could talk about—you know, it’s hard to talk about women in leadership without tying that to the current moment, the #MeToo moment. The focus has been primarily on sexual harassment and the worst of this predatory behavior, but I think, Ellen, what you’re getting toward is the everyday issues that women are facing every single day—being marginalized, overlooked, interrupted, just given less respect than men. So can you talk a little bit about what’s the connection and how we might bridge that gap?

KULLMAN: Well, I do think it comes down to when you have an environment that there’s 20 percent women and 80 percent men, the environment is different than if you had 50 or close to 50 percent women and 50 percent men. There’s just a changing environment.

I bought a Danish company, Danisco, a couple years into my tenure, and they were much more gender-diverse than DuPont was at the time. And, you know, granted, it’s a biology-based company. A lot of women study biology. Their research labs, it was phenomenal, right? I went over there. I was like in seventh heaven, right, type of thing. And you see what a difference—their culture was very different than the culture that I saw in my own plants and things like that in the U.S.: less cowboy, you know, more thoughtful, disciplined, get it done. Not that, you know, we’re not disciplined, but it was just a very different culture, and I do think that numbers matter there.

I think the only way we’re going to get equal status, equal pay, equal respect is by being there in equal numbers. And I think that that does affect—impact greatly the culture of the firm.

LIPMAN: Dominic, I wonder if you could weigh in on that as well, particularly your firm, you know, being so heavily male-dominated. And I know that’s something that has been a real focus for you throughout your entire tenure.

BARTON: Yeah. I mean, I also sort of see what Ellen does in our different offices. We have some offices where, you know, we have—it literally is 55 percent women. Interestingly enough, our Thai office or if—you know, if I think about what’s happening in our Korean—there’s some places where you have—you see a very big difference in kind of the—I don’t know, the culture is a little—is different. I mean, it’s—it is different is what—and I think that does play a bigger role in all of it.

The other part I just wanted to go back to, if I might, is just the comment about—you know, Ellen was talking about her 27-year-old daughter. Another thing, again, these unconscious biases. I was at a university board meeting just last week and I took my daughter, who’s 24, who’s doing her doctorate in psychology. She’s part of the university, and she came for the dinner. It was very interesting because the feedback afterwards was tell your daughter how pretty she is. It was amazing. It was—I said, you know, she’s actually a student. I don’t—I’m not going to tell her that because I don’t think she’d find that, you know, very flattering. And it’s amazing that that’s in today’s day and age. And two of those people were women, right, in the group.

And so I think, again, it is about getting critical mass. And I do think where I’ve seen, again, offices or practices where there is more diversity and balance, you—the culture is just much more positive. It doesn’t mean it’s not as ambitious at all. It’s just more constructive—a little more balanced. It doesn’t—again, it does not mean it isn’t as ambitious or driven.

LIPMAN: Right. Great. You know, at this time I think we have time for some questions from our members. It looks like we have a lot of questions. Just a reminder, as you ask your questions, that we are on the record here. Hands are still up. Good. (Laughter.) Do we have someone with a microphone? Yes. You right over here.

Q: Hi. Younghee Kim-wait. I’m with the Metropolitan Museum.

And thank you very much for your comments. But the younger generation today, we are hearing the statistics. They will change—they will have several careers during their lifetime and they demand much more mobility. And I’m wondering whether CEOs today are recognizing those changes in society and focus more on lateral hirings to beef up the women in the rank, or continue to look at from the old paradigm that people might stay in the same company 20-30 years.

KULLMAN: Yeah, no. We actually—we were in—coming out of the global financial crisis—we’re an old company. Not, you know, 215 years old, but an old company by average age of employee. We had a lot of retirements coming out of the global financial crisis. And so we were not only hiring incoming at a record rate back to, like, the ’80s, we had to bring in mid-career hires. And the interesting thing is that historically our mid-career hires were 95 percent men. And one of the paradigms I had to break was we had to get diverse slates in mid-career hires, not just in the entry level, because you can make much more progress if you bring in, you know, key leaders into middle management and up, executive ranks that are—that are more diverse, more gender diverse.

And so that was—that’s absolutely part of the equation anymore because, you’re right, people don’t stay forever. Sometimes we can lure them back. We, you know, have an alumni program we like to continue on, but.

LIPMAN: The gentleman at the same table over here.

Q: I’m Jacques-Philippe Piverger.

Thank you for the wonderful insights. And I definitely wanted to commend the fact that there’s a balanced perspective, the fact that there’s a man and a woman. I’ve been in similar meetings here on gender and usually there’s only women in the room. So I think the fact that there’s balance helps.

I am an entrepreneur. I’ve built a number of for-profit and for-purpose enterprises. One of the for-purpose nonprofits is called the Council for Urban Professionals. And we’re focused on empowering women and minorities. And recently one of the conversations that’s come up is around diversity within women. So if you look around the room, I’m counting maybe three or four black women. And so often times conversations on gender lose some of the subcomponents of that demographic. And so I’d love to hear more about how you’re tackling that topic and, you know, what can be done to make improvements in that arena. Thank you.

LIPMAN: Before either of you jump in, I actually would like to mention I think that’s a great point about intersectionality which is something that, as I’ve been doing book talks for the last two weeks, comes up. My book, That’s What She Said, is focused on women but goes intersectionality, the idea that women belong to—maybe belong to one or more underrepresented groups, and that if you have—if you belong to more than one you may face a double or a triple bind. A woman who is also African-American, right? And this is something that I think younger generations are highly, highly aware of. And I would actually say to the—those of you in the room who are senior executives, it’s something you actually should get up to speed on, because it’s something that the younger people coming in are highly focused on.

KULLMAN: Yeah. I mean, I—we continue to be amazed because we felt like when started Paradigm for Parity that we were inclusive of all women. But a lot of the underrepresented groups of women didn’t—you know, challenged us in terms of how did we create inclusiveness for them. And so we’re reaching out and bringing in more in order to be able to understand. You know, are we adding to the issues? Are there other things that we need to address, right, because I do think when you’re not only a woman but a member of an underrepresented group, you’ve got kind of a double issue, right, associated with unconscious bias and things like that. So it’s one that we’re trying to reach out and bring more in, so that we can make sure that all those issues are enveloped in terms of our action plan.

LIPMAN: Yeah. I mean, just one factoid on that point. So if women make approximately 80 cents on the dollar for men, for African-American women it is 63 cents on the dollar. And for Latinas, who are at the bottom of the pay scale, 54 cents on the dollar. So it’s an incredibly important issue.

Why don’t we take a question from the other side of the room?

Q: Hi. Rekha Grennan. I’m a corporate responsibility consultant.

I’m curious to understand what kind of research or guidance you give to senior executives who are looking to promote women at the middle and maybe senior-middle levels, who may have suffered from bias earlier in their careers. Their resumes, or their histories, or the projects they may have been able to work on may not be as competitive against their male counterparts. So how do you address the bias, when there’s already been bias that they’ve suffered from?

LIPMAN: Dominic, is that something you would like to talk about? Because I know you’ve focused on that.

BARTON: Sure. Yeah. It comes back to this sponsorship notion. We’ve found that, you know, ensuring—especially at that level, as the question was just said. For us, it’s the project managers. Those are people who’ve been with us for three to four years. That’s where we actually have most of our attrition, by the way, in the kind of the funnel as it comes. And we’ve found that the sponsorship, where you have men who actually are taking not only—they’re not mentoring, they feel responsible and they’re going to help people move through the system is actually one of the most powerful ways of doing it.

And that’s an area that we focus on. And we actually—again, it may sound like a trite thing. There’s an award given every year for the best sponsor in the firm. It’s called the Lowell Bryan Award, for a senior partner who, just by his history, you know, created and led or helped many, many women be successful leaders, right, in the system. And so, again, I think this sponsorship is absolutely critical. And it makes a difference in keeping people and helping people progress.

LIPMAN: Question over here in the middle. This gentleman over here.

Q: My name is Bruce Knotts and I represent the Unitarian Universalist faith at the United Nations.

I’m going to try to squeeze two questions in here, if you don’t mind. First of all, I am LGBT activist. And usually here at CSW we talk about LBT women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, so that’s another issue of cross-sectionality. But what I’d really like to ask is the role of religion in all of this. I spoke to a group of Japanese students about gender equality—actually, it was about LGBT marriage—same-sex marriage. And I said, you can’t have same-sex marriage until you have gender quality in Japan. And I said, how about a Japanese empress? And you should have heard the breath—you know, everybody was shocked at the idea. We’ve also even had discussions about a woman pope. And how much of these symbolic leaders—a pope, an empress of Japan, and those kinds of things—drag on public perceptions and finds its way into people’s unconscious bias in the workplace?

KULLMAN: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s—I think that’s a great question. I think it’s one that we all grapple with. We all know that women don’t see enough role models in—you know, to give them the belief that they can go ahead. You know, I was in Japan. And one of my partners sheepishly told me, a head of a large Japanese company, that his daughter went to work for my firm because she felt like she could never have a chance to be the head of his. He was slightly embarrassed about it. I was pleased as punch, right—(laughter)—because we got a great—you know?

And it is true that those kinds of role models, no matter where they are, are very important. And when you have norms that say that could never—that’s something that can’t be crossed. I mean, the British government said now that if the first-born’s a woman, a girl, that she can become queen, right? So I do think it’s breaking down slowly. But I think the more you shine a light on it, I think the more transparency there is, the more dialogue and discussion you’ll get, and hopefully keep moving it in the right direction.

LIPMAN: The woman right over here.

Q: Thank you. Mona Aboelnaga Kanaan with K6 Investments.

I wanted to go back to the issue of quotas, and to push that a little bit further, because I’ve always found it curious in my career that we question quotas, we say that they’ve had limited or questionable success, but it seems like targets have had even more limited and questionable success. And in my personal experience as a private equity investor, I’ve sat on boards because I basically bought into the company and bought a seat.

But the most instrumental board seat I ever had was that by a foreign bank that had a quota, put me on the board of a company, and that resulted in my getting more opportunities, including getting opportunities to appoint women, to raise issues relative to the company that are important to women that nobody else would perhaps have thought of—not because of maliciousness, but just because they don’t have to think about them. So, again, you know, why are we so hard? Just like we have to wait a little bit longer to prove that a woman is worth promoting, why do we have to prove absolutely that quotas are the best thing ever when we know—I think we know that other methods are not worked?

KULLMAN: You know, I’m—look, I had a bad experience with quotas. You know, I tell you, you know, I had people who said—I can—I can make that quota, and I can prove you wrong. And I don’t think you ever want to put anybody in a position where they think they got the job just because of what they look like, you know, as opposed to got the job because they’re the best candidate, and they happened to be a woman, or they happened to be something else. And so I do think that—maybe it’s language and maybe it’s personal experience—but if I have a target and I have six jobs to fill and, you know, and I have four men and two women end up in those jobs, well, at least I’m, you know, kind of, you know, 40 percent of the way there—whatever.

And you just—you have to set something out there for people to drive to, but not make it so rigid that you impede—like, you know, I’ll just give you a great example. In the ’90s—early ’90s, we had a system where they measured everything down to gender and underrepresented groups by level in each unit in the pond. So if I let my high-potential woman go to your organization, and I didn’t replace her with a high-potential woman, I got marked down and you won. So it was inhibiting promotion on underrepresented groups and women because nobody wanted to let go of the people they had. They were looking to steal people or hire people in. And so you can’t make it that rigid. You have to have it so that the people are making the decisions for the right reasons, and that it’s very inclusive of a much more diverse population going forward.

LIPMAN: Did you want to add anything, Dominic?

BARTON: No. I think I—the thing I would say is it’s a good challenge, but I—again, I think we haven’t given the companies setting public targets enough time yet and putting—and CEOs saying: This is what I want to do by this time, and you’re consistently saying it, and it’s reported. And I’m seeing a lot—I’ve seen a lot of organizations just saying we’ve got to do this because it’s the right thing to do, as opposed to I’ve got to meet—tick a box on it. And that’s the—that’s sort of where I come from.

LIPMAN: Question over here.

Q: Thank you for all your remarks. My name is Carolyn Ferguson. I work for Circle Wealth Management.

And I wanted to bring it back to more of the education—primary school education. And where we see really big gender gaps is in tech and science. And the evidence is quite damning of those industries. And how do we get females—and encourage females to enter those industries, because I think someone, especially even in my generation as a Millennial, I would not want to enter that industry right now, especially with all of the allegations that have come out about the Silicon Valley industry and the bro culture that they have there. How can we encourage younger females and younger generations to get away from that problem and enter those fields that are so much worse than other fields?

LIPMAN: Who would like to take that?

KULLMAN: OK. So, you know, it is—so, I actually am a member of the National Academy of Engineer. And we’re doing a project right now on STEM educators pre-K-12. And what we’re finding is that they—and this is in general—that grade school teachers aren’t prepared to teach science and technology in a way that’s relevant to our children, that engages them and wants them to study more. And we—you know, and we’re coming up with some very interesting ideas on how you bridge that gap. But we’ve got a gap in the educators that are educating our kids, just to get more kids interested in math and science and much less, you know, girls and underrepresented groups.

And the other—the other area about once you—you know, if you—you know, I’m an engineer, right? So I’m an anomaly for my age group. But, you know, I think that the only thing that’s going to make a difference in driving to parity in the workplace. And a company has to understand the economic value of that and, you know, get over this, you know, lock room bro culture if the way it goes. And I think the more transparency there is on those types of behaviors and the unacceptability of it—I think, you know, you talk to a guy like Marc Benioff, who runs Salesforce, built it from nothing, and, I mean, he’s a believer, you know, and driving to parity in his company in his company. And, you know, he kind of laughs. Every time he buys a company, it’s like he starts over because he’s buying a little startup without much diversity, without much gender, and pay differentials.

And so he’s—you know, but you have to—we have to start cultivating and bringing, you know, this out to them. And I think it will make a difference. I think the tech companies that figure it out are the ones that are going to win.

LIPMAN: Yeah. Just to add to that, actually. Educators, it’s found, that unconscious bias also impacts the educators. There was a study done of elementary schoolers in which they took a math test and their names were taken off the papers. The papers were graded. The girls outperformed the boys. Then the names were put back on these tests and regraded. And some of the boys outscored the girls in math. So there’s an inherent bias that even the teachers have that is something that needs to be worked on. And I think, you know, both of you have talked a lot about the awareness of those biases so that you can counteract them. Over here.

BARTON: Joanne, could I just add something? May I just say something quickly?

LIPMAN: Please do.

BARTON: Just on—just the one other example I found inspiring was actually in Germany, where you had a group of industrial CEOs actually develop kits for kindergarten and actually go into the kindergartens themselves. This is a Siemens, BASF. And literally go into the kindergarten with, you know, chemistry is—you can, you know, put things together, and all sorts of things happen. Just making it fun, and actually going right into the kindergarten. And I think—again, that’s probably not something we could scale up in any way. But I just think there’s a way to, again, get more people to see the fun of it, if you will.

LIPMAN: Sir, over here.

Q: Andras Forgacs, co-founder and CEO of Modern Meadow.

We’re a company that grows leather without killing animals—a biotech, a bio-industrial company. And I’m really happy to say that we have four of our seven senior executive members as women. So for us, it’s been not something that’s been a target, but we’ve found that that’s really where the talent is for what we do. And it extends throughout the organization.

I have a question for Ellen, actually, and for Dom as well. What do you make of the phenomenon of the last cliff? Basically, that companies, at the senior-most levels, sometimes appoint women to a position of leadership when, you know, a big kind of Hail Mary is needed, or when it—the situation might be precarious, and they may not be in a position to succeed? And that’s a question to Ellen. And then Dom, related to that, which is when is McKinsey going to have a woman managing partner? What’s your estimate? (Laughter.)

KULLMAN: Well, you know, so there’s not—there aren’t many women CEOs. So you can probably, you know, create a lot of, you know, we’re in there a—you know, in a crisis. We’re in a lot of things. Because it’s a lot of small numbers, right, because you don’t have enough diversity at the top of the house relative to gender to really—to really make a difference. You know, I see—look, you can look on—you can look on histories of these things in a lot of ways. I think I was eminently successful through a lot of the challenges that were there. So I—you know, I put my record up against any guy out there who’s a CEO. I was CEO for seven years, type of thing.

I do think that, you know, there is a—you just have to play it out, right? You know, who should lead a company is very specific to the environment that the board feels that company will face in the next 10 years. And they’re going to pick the best athlete to be able to deliver against that for the next 10 years. And I think, you know, having more women in the C-suite in generally is going to give more women the opportunity to get that. And that’s what we have to drive to. We have to drive to parity in senior management so that those opportunities are there. But you don’t—you don’t shy away from it just because it’s a tough time. You can’t pick your time.

Oh, when’s managing director at McKinsey, Dom? (Laughter.)

BARTON: I thought we’d—I thought we’d move along to the next question. (Laughter.) No, we have—I could say a couple of things. I’m very excited we had—as you know, we just had an election. And Vivian Hunt, who’s the managing partner of our London office was in the 10 that were there, I think has a big following. And there’s at least five other women in my mind that are—you know, that could easily run the firm—certainly do it better than me. And I think people are ready for that. I think there’s no issue on that front. We just have to have more women in leadership roles over time. And I think there’s a commitment to it. So I think—you know, it’s going to happen. I can’t tell you when. I hope it happens soon. But I think it’s going to happen.

LIPMAN: Can I just ask a follow-on question to that, Dominic? Is the—is the—because most of the voters were men for that election. If you had a more balanced—a more gender-balanced partnership, do you think that that would have changed the election, or could have?

BARTON: I’m not sure it would have, because we have—because I don’t think that’s how—again, from the women I spoke to, I don’t think they look at it as a woman versus a man. They’re looking for the leadership styles and the approaches. And I think you’d find—I know with—you know, some of the women had very strong feelings about this—I like this particular person, versus that. So I’m—what I think we need more of is more—I think we need more candidates, if you will, that would come up. And that means there’s more—there has to be a higher proportion of women in senior roles, as we move through it. But I think we’ve way passed crossed the Rubicon, if you will, that this is a—there’s no—you know, is if it’s a woman—it’s man against woman. I really don’t think it is that way. But, again, maybe that’s an unconscious bias I have. You know, maybe I’m not the right person to ask on that. But I don’t think that’s the case. It’s—

LIPMAN: Right over here in the front.

Q: Thank you. I’m Ella Gudwin. I’m president of VisionSpring.

I wonder what your advice would be to those of us who have team members in emerging market countries and frontier markets, where some of the cultural biases are very heavily influenced from the family members at home. And it’s quite easy for us to recruit in HR and marketing. Getting sales reps who are women who can actually be out on the road, it’s often a husband or a father who says, no, you need to stay home. How much have you encountered that in your international offices? And do you have any tactics or advice that you would recommend to really tackling some very, very deep-seated biases, that are not just in the workplace but are surrounding our employees on all sides?

LIPMAN: Dominic, do you want to address that?

BARTON: Sure. Well, we—if I pick a number of offices—let’s say, our Pakistan office, our Saudi office, places where, you know, only recently in Saudi women have been allowed to drive, if you will. What we’ve actually done there is actually had parents—we have what we—literally it’s like a parent session to talk about what we do and where we are in universities. And to the point you’ve made, you know, a lot of leaders have daughters that they want to do well through the program. So it’s also involving people like that, to say, you know, we all need to work together to make this happen.

And, again, to me, it’s about getting a critical mass. We’re not going to be able to change a society, but all we’re talking about is getting a critical mass of women that can then demonstrate that this can actually be done. And that will hopefully attract other women to say, hey, I can see someone, they’ve been doing this for a while. So the only thing we’ve done there is we’ve had to focus a bit on the parents, to your point of view, in some of the places so they can see what it’s like. What does being on the road mean? What’s the—because there’s other issues.

It isn’t even about sort of being on the road. It’s—some cultures are sort of you can’t—you know, how can you—you know, your family has to take priority over your job. You know, how can you possibly have a—there are societies like that. And I think showing how that actually—you can be wonderful mothers and have a great career at the—these are not tradeoffs type of a thing. Then—so that’s what we’ve tried to do.

LIPMAN: Over here.

Q: Hi. I’m Sue Meng. I’m a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton.

I was wondering if you could talk about what specific policies you’ve seen work, whether at DuPont or McKinsey or elsewhere, that have helped in the retention of senior women. Because one of the things we’ve finding is despite over 50 percent of law school classes turning out women, and our junior classes being women, we’re having a real problem retaining women, despite I think, compared to other industries, having pretty favorable policies concerning leave, flex time, part time. And I think part of the reason is that there’s a kind of stigma to taking a longer maternity leave, going on part time, going on flex time. So we have these policies on paper, but in practice they’re not helping us retain talented women. So I would be curious for your thoughts on that.

KULLMAN: Yeah. I mean, I do think that is the biggest issue, because you have—you know, we all have these programs. But is there a willingness to use them based on what other people are going to think? Will they be considered for that promotion if they’ve been part time for two years or three years? And, you know, one of our first—one of the first women to get into the senior ranks at DuPont—well, there were two of us that had kids back in the day. And we both had twins—sets of twins. So that’s why we went back to work, we said, because staying at home was not—that wasn’t working for us. (Laughter.) But she came back—she actually blazed the trail, because she came back. You know, her kids were about 6 or 7 years older than mine. But she came back part time and shared a job with another woman who wanted to be part time for two years. And then she rose to be the treasurer of the company and led some of our largest divestitures and expenses and things like that.

And so having that—have an example like that, and having people see her succeed, was hugely important for the entirely of the company, because, you know, they would point to that. Even the men in the company would point to that about why you shouldn’t—no, don’t leave. Why don’t you work part time? Let’s see if can work this out. And then, you know, and come back. And so it takes a lot of work, but I do think if you have those bright spots that they can be phenomenally useful in terms of getting the organization to see that it’s not a negative.

LIPMAN: Dominic, did I see you wanted to add something to that?

BARTON: Not really. I mean, I think it’s the—what we find is making sure that flex time is also—it’s for males and females. It’s not a—just for—and in fact, the first person in McKinsey who actually did take a sort of a paternity—sort of leave was a male, right, in the process. And so just saying and has been very successful. And so—and also, I think taking the time pressure off. We used to have a lot of time pressure, to make partner you need to do it within six years or something. Now it’s you take your time. And, by the way, men and women both take their time in how they do it. And so that, and the role models that Ellen talked about, are the ways I think we can try and, you know, help get through that gap.

LIPMAN: Over here. Yeah.

Q: Yes, thank you. Jewelle Bickford.

Ellen, I’m—let’s say I’m a CEO sitting here in this audience and I would like to adopt the Paradigm for Parity five-point action plan and implement it all concurrently all at once. What is the value proposition for me?

KULLMAN: I think the value proposition, and the CEOs that I talk to that have joined us on this, it is in many industries a war on talent. And they’re using it to as a way to differentiate themselves from their peers initially. Some of them are coming in because their peers are doing it, and they don’t want to be at a loss. But, you know, if you look at the economic benefit of gender parity, if you look at how the culture of a company changes and becomes much more productive, much—you know—you know, the results are greater. And so it’s not only the economic benefit, but the war on talent out there says women, people have choices as to where they go and where they spend their time. And it’s a lot different than when I came out of college and, you know, my parents said, you know, see you at Thanksgiving, you know, and let us know where you’re living, kind of thing.

I mean, so kids today feel like they have a lot more choices in life. And I had one leave the company and move home for the last four months, and young—one of my twin boys—because he hated the culture of the company he was in, and he wanted to move to a city where he wanted to live. And he found a job and he starts on Monday, thankfully. (Laughter.) But kids today feel like they have more choices. And corporations are very aware of that. And they use things like Paradigm for Parity, they use that as a means to showcase to their own people their seriousness about a level playing field, about how if you come to this firm you will have an equal opportunity to succeed, and be promoted, and potentially lead the company. And I do think—and it’s—I think it’s very heartfelt from that standpoint.

Q: (Off mic)—HR.

KULLMAN: Yeah, the heads of HR are critical in this. And they are actually the ones that are driving it in a lot of the companies, because not—they’re driving them joining programs like ours, because they see it as being very helpful for them in delivering against their goals for the company, and partner with the CEO in order to get that done.

LIPMAN: So we are just about out of time. I know we have more questions, but we’re just about out of time. So I wanted to thank Ellen Kullman, Dominic Barton, for a phenomenal discussion. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


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