January 6, 2021

Better use of technology can help us close racial and gender gaps at work

By Katica Roy, Fortune.comJanuary 6, 2021 12:30 PM CST

Today’s businesses measure nearly everything with software. Hard “key performance indicators” or KPIs, such as number of calls, meetings, leads, and closes per month, supply the lifeblood to sales teams. Meanwhile, our marketing teams track every email open and build attribution models from first click to last. Finance and HR departments operate in a similar manner.

Individually, we use technology to optimize our sleep, our steps, and the sips of water we take every day. So why aren’t we using software to measure progress toward intersectional gender equity?

When we achieve intersectional gender equity, it means we will have closed all the gaps across gender, race, ethnicity that prevent people from fully participating in the economy. These gaps include the pay gap as well as gaps in promotion, performance evaluation, and access to opportunity. It’s about leveling the playing field so everyone—regardless of their gender or skin color—has the chance to realize their ambitions.

Software to close intersectional gender equity gaps exists. It’s powerful, it’s effective, and it’s the solution our well-intended diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts have been waiting for.

We need new solutions to move the needle

By July 2020, Fortune 100 companies had pledged over $2 billion in new spending to racial justice causes. And prior to 2020, corporations were spending $8 billion annually on implicit bias training, even though a growing body of evidence shows that such training is generally ineffective and reinforces harmful stereotypes. Many corporations are now pledging to change representation percentages within their ranks and even tying managers’ pay to diversity measures. All of these solutions lack one thing: intersectionality. We cannot treat gender equity and racial equity as two distinct pillars of DEI. Here’s why.

Anyone who represents two or more diverse classes becomes a blind spot. Pipeline found through its implementations that men receive promotions at a 21% greater rate than women in aggregate. But when we applied the intersectional lens (i.e., when we disaggregated the data beyond gender), we found the promotion gap doubles for Black women. It’s not only these individuals who lose out. Entire organizations miss out on opportunities to build more inclusive and resilient businesses when they fail to account for intersectionality.

To some extent, their failure can be forgiven. Collecting, managing, and analyzing intersectional data on every employee, at every stage of the talent lifecycle, on every rung of the ladder, and across an entire organization is no small undertaking. However, the window of forgiveness, if it hasn’t closed yet, will close soon. Between COVID-19 accelerating digital adoption and the past year’s renewed calls for racial justice, companies that don’t take measures to close their intersectional gender gaps will be left behind.

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