Gender Diversity

by Chris Vansickle, SHRM-SCP

We've heard and read the statistics: firms "in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians."i
Here's a topic on which thinkers and feelers can both agree: doing the right thing in both dollars and values.

Today, let's consider gender diversity as we attempt to attract, develop, place and promote more women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) roles. When I learned about Lean In, I enthusiastically ordered copies for all female members of our salaried team as well as all of the (primarily male) site staff. As we turned the pages of Sheryl Sandberg's book, we learned together. We, also, saw promotion of one of ConAgra's first woman plant leaders promoted from within the organization, Kim Hague!

I would have to agree with Michael Cohen when he suggests that Lean In “may be aimed at female readers, but what's remarkable is how much it has to offer men.”ii Sandberg's statement gave me a new perspective in which I had to agree as an alliance partner: "To this day, I'm embarrassed that I didn't realize that pregnant women needed reserved parking...” It has been five years now and many have taken action. We've seen the rise of websites dedicated to gender concerns that had been overlooked for decades, including at least one making parking lots safer for expecting mothers.iii

In that sense, I was quite happy to assist Lee Ann Searcy, former HR Director, at North Central Missouri College (NCMC) in developing the college's Lactation Room for which they earned an award from the State of Missouri. Very glad to see how much NCMC has added to awareness and resources for both Students and Employees.iv

Soon afterwards, we were able to place a very passionate registered nurse (RN), Jessica Donelson, on staff who created another mothers' room at the former ConAgra Foods plant in Trenton, MO with a lot of resources from Livingston County and other contacts she gained through NCMC's nursing program. The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (MDHSS) also has several resources to help firms and institutions become a breastfeeding friendly worksite.v

I recently heard that a male contractor stated that there's no requirement to have a mother's room as we considered a new floor layout for a new building. It struck me that even though the PPACA had been signed over eight years ago, business leaders still need awareness of measures that protect women and would create a more inclusive environment. Please consider what the Department of Labor's Fact Sheet #73 (Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA) seems to clarify this point under the Fair Labor Standards Actvi:
This fact sheet provides general information on the break time requirement for nursing mothers in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), which took effect when the PPACA was signed into law on March 23, 2010 (P.L. 111-148). This law amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

The need for additional education and dialogue with our leaders continues. If we want to be employers of choice when recruiting women, especially in manufacturing and/or technical fields, we need to understand and meet our regulatory requirements at a minimum. From there, we can continue to advance further programs and best practices that will attract more talent such as Step Forward!vii

Not everything should be utilitarian...our culture, values and intangibles allow us to form new teams that create increased returns - where all team members are valued for their strengths instead of excluded for their differences.








Other Resources/Recognition: