Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 3, 2020

Workplace inequality too big for one book to solve

The disappointment arrived just after lunch. That promotion you hoped to get? Nope. No raise, either, because your boss wants you to make a few improvements in your job, tweak your skills, have more time to grow – even though you’ve been improving, tweaking and growing for months at work.

Frustrating? You bet, but as you’ll see in “The Fix” by Michelle King, you can’t blame yourself.

Get a better degree, lean in, create a personal brand, find your fit: When it comes to business and business opportunities, women have been told all these things and more in the past year or three. You need to change and adapt to your workplace, right?

Wrong, King says. The problem isn’t you. It’s your workplace.

Your opportunities are limited because women are “underrepresented” in nearly “every level of leadership in corporate America.”

The issue is worse for women of color, and when you consider that, overall, “women continue to earn less,” you see that the whole situation is unsustainable, even untenable.

And it can happen, even if the business is trying to avoid it.

Acting like men is obviously not the answer, nor is being a “token” hire, King says, stressing that she’s not advocating change at the expense of men. Instead, she points out that alterations in the workplace that benefit women also benefit their male co-workers in ways they may not have realized they need.

But until widespread change happens, King says, preparation and knowing what you might experience is important; knowing these “phases” can also help institute fixes along the way:

“The Achievement Phase” happens at the beginning of a woman’s career life. It’s here where fitting in and conformity are pushed, and pay inequality appears.

“The Endurance Phase” is the midcareer spot and includes a battle with “gender norms” from management and a “Catch-22” for male co-workers.

“The Contribution Phase” arrives for a woman who’s been in the workplace awhile. Here is where women grapple with leadership issues, but with effort and teaching, there’s a chance to make a better workplace for all employees.

Every woman who’s ever gotten a paycheck from an outside source knows the feeling of going nowhere, fast. You know that frustration of goals held just out of reach. “The Fix” offers a way to change that – but you’ll need lots of buy-in to do it.

Businesswomen, of course, already know all about inequality and unfair assumptions in the workplace, but King reiterates them quickly before pointing out the nefarious but “hidden” ways that the status quo is kept. Reading this absolutely heightens any frustration you might be feeling or have tamped down, if you’re a longtime or frequent sufferer; that’s when King switches gears to her forewarned-is-forearmed part of this book, which serves to sharpen observations and offer ideas.

But will it help? Not by itself; for King’s ideas to work, every employee needs to be on board. Women can read and try “The Fix” themselves, but without their male co-workers, there’ll be a lot of disappointment.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.