Last week I was reading the 2018 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report. If we continue to make progress at the same pace, the gap for economic opportunity (i.e. gender parity in the workplace) will close in 167 years in Canada and the US. For the world as a whole it’s 202 years. Yikes! That’s a LONG time.
When I first started learning about this I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t think I could make a difference. I got curious and started to learn more about the reasons why progress is happening so slowly. I believe that knowledge is power. You need to know where you are before you can actually do something about it. You need to understand the baseline before you can really change anything. Today I’m sharing my observations of my own industry which is coaching, corporate training and consulting.
Here’s the bad news
Less than 1% of corporate procurement goes to women-led businesses. This stat is from SheEO, if you haven’t already heard about them, you should. They are an amazing organization that is making the world a better place by investing in women led businesses.
Corporate training and consulting is considered procurement – it’s a business buying services from another business. I am a very small business, but I do sell my services to large companies, so this is my playground. This also means that 99% of the available work in my industry is being done by male-led businesses. Many of these businesses are huge consulting firms. They do look very different from my business, which consists of myself and numerous contractors.
What this means
My niche is women and diversity. These numbers tell me that in all likelihood, most diversity and women’s leadership initiatives are being awarded to male led businesses. However, stopping here is oversimplifying things. Based on my observations, most women’s leadership programs are facilitated by women who are likely employees or contractors of larger organizations.
One thing I know about big consulting firms is that in order to make it to the top, to be a partner or director, you need to be able to bring in business. You need to put yourself out there, play the politics, take risks and get clients for the company. That’s what it takes to reach that level of leadership. An unfortunate observation that I’ve made in my industry is that a lot of women prefer doing the work over bringing the work in. There are so many coaches and consultants who love to facilitate, they love to coach, they love to develop strategies, but they don’t like business development. These are the people that are facilitating, coaching and delivering the diversity strategies. There is a huge opportunity for these big consulting firms to step up and walk the talk. They must encourage their female employees to get out of their own comfort zones, put themselves out there and learn business development, to do what it takes to really make change happen in all organizations.
For me this means, that if I want to play in this playground, it’s going to be hard. The numbers are not in my favour. Right now only 1% of corporate procurement goes to women led businesses and that is a REALLY small piece of this pie. It would be easy for me to give up, to leave this playground because the odds of success are stacked against me.
What I’m doing about it
Giving up does not change things. I’m choosing to do my part, even if it’s small. If everyone does something, then we won’t have to wait 167 years for the gender gap to close. I’m pounding the pavement. I’m putting myself out there. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m following up with people. I’m connecting with senior leaders. I’m spending a lot of time on business development because I know that is what it’s going to take. In the future, when I’m ready to hire employees, business development is going to be part of their job description whether they like it or not. Because I know that is what it’s going to take to change my industry.
If you are ready to take the first step to do your part to close the gender gap. You can download my free workbook called Re-ignite Your Ambition. Here I walk you through the first steps to being more ambitious and doing your part to close the gender gap.