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The March Madness of Gender Inequality

Mar 22, 2022
Deb Muller

Earlier this month I got invited to set up a bracket for March Madness. Just like the nearly 90% of workers, I believe the annual NCAA basketball tournament boosts our collective mood and infuses fun into our work culture. Since March is also Women’s History Month, I thought I would double down on the fun and invite our team to compete in a pool for women’s teams.

I was shocked when I jumped on to CBS Sports to create a private women’s pool for HR Acuity team members. The option didn’t exist! Sure, I could create a bracket, but to engage with my teamshutterstock_130356119 to celebrate the success of the female athletes, NO GO. That’s when I had to call a foul on the fun! Why is an entire group of NCAA athletes being dismissed like this? Same sport, same month, same technology infrastructure to support betting pools. All that’s left for me to assume is that CBS Sports doesn’t think there is enough interest or demand for a female betting option. Big mistake – it’s insulting, even if it’s not intentional.

Whether CBS Sports realizes it or not, their “madness mishap” is a reflection of their culture. What’s more, it’s a striking example of how unconscious bias hurts women and other underrepresented employees. Just imagine what the women inside CBS Sports think of the fact that their company dismisses their entire gender during what is arguably the Super Bowl of college sports. It has to sting.

Ironically, parent organization Paramount goes out of their way on their corporate career site to highlight strides in diversity, equity and inclusion. They even include a prominent shout out for their commitment to gender equality, “We are among the small number of companies with female-majority corporate boards in the Russell 3000 Index. We are conscious of how we need to mirror these accomplishments across the company.” To that I say, take a closer look in the mirror – your hypocrisy by omission isn’t a good look – it’s a slam dunk in the wrong direction.

As the CEO of HR Acuity, I coach leaders on how to strengthen their employee relations policies and processes in order to build fair, trustworthy team cultures. To put it bluntly, I advise them to skip the talk and walk the walk. A commitment to equity is more than website copy. It requires consideration of systems, practices and behaviors that impact employees, customers and partner stakeholders.

What my clients consistently hear from me is that driving real gender equity has to be a team sport, and everyone across the organization needs to keep their eyes on the ball. Leaders at every level must constantly ask the right questions. “How are women represented on our teams and projects?” and “What does equity look like at every level, from newly onboarded employees to executive leadership candidates?” Here’s a hint – equity doesn’t look like a math ratio and it’s not about keeping score. It looks like fairly representing women in their pay, their learning and development opportunities, and their leadership roles. It looks like including equity in every decision you make in your business processes.

I may not get to bet on women’s teams during March Madness this year, but my bet is always on women in the workplace. As for the team at CBS Sports, the shot clock is running. Call me.

Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.
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