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Opinion: Suspend your disbelief of women in the workplace

Publisher's Perspective

Posted online

I often recall a Missouri State University theater class I took my freshman year in which the concept of willing suspension of disbelief was first introduced to me. This is the key to true appreciation, the professor explained. When we set aside concepts like time, place, travel and other constraints of reality, we can simply enjoy what is happening on stage and only then grasp the artist’s intended message.

My introduction to this concept may actually have had the opposite effect on me than the professor intended. I found myself questioning everything or at least being acutely aware every time I was being called upon to stretch my imagination beyond what I knew to be possible. To this day, I don’t much enjoy science fiction, monster tales or anything with aliens.

All of that being said, I’m asking you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and imagine a world of true gender parity in the workplace. It’s not quite the stretch required to imagine flying with dragons or fending off zombies, but it’s a stretch nevertheless. Women today are increasingly seen in leadership positions in the workplace, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

According to the Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance, only 15% of public board seats worldwide were held by women in 2017. Imagine a world where 30% of those seats are held by women. A 2018 study by Carolyn Wiles and Mireia Monllor-Tormos for the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies indicates when board representation is at least 30% female, creativity and productivity are positively impacted by diversity.

Similar levels of gender disparity were observed in government and in corporate leadership in a notable New York Times article titled, “The Top Jobs Where Women Are Outnumbered by Men Named John.” The authors stated, “Fewer Republican senators are women than men named John – despite the fact that Johns represent 3.3% of the male population, while women represent 50.8% of the total population.” The same article pointed out approximately equal proportions of female chief executives of Fortune 500 companies and CEOs named John.

We know on a basic level men and women are different. However, in our efforts to bring diversity into the realm of top-level decision making, gender is all too often overlooked. I know we can do better. Boardrooms, leadership teams and work groups in general can all achieve greater results through inclusiveness with regard to age, background, ethnicity, expertise and gender.

The current issue of Springfield Business Journal features an abundance of leading women. When reading the pages of the “How She Leads” advertorial supplement, I am inspired by the overarching philosophies of 30 local women who have led their teams to greatness and forged a path for others to follow. I am equally intrigued to learn about the unique strengths that six local women bring to their professional lives in this week’s Women In Business editorial Focus section.

It becomes infinitely less difficult to imagine the world of gender parity when you can fully appreciate the rich pool of local female talent. It is our challenge now to set aside the constraints of our current reality, or to suspend our disbelief, in order to create a more equitable future.

Springfield Business Journal Publisher Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jjackson@sbj.net.

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