I need to tell you that I do not believe that I have a solution to this systemic problem. To have such faith in myself would be an arrogance that would perpetuate the issues.
The phrase “empower women” can be found in many places these days, but I feel slightly uncomfortable with this term. It suggests that there is a course of action, falling within the current framework, which will improve the situation caused by the lottery of your birth.
Let’s start with a generally accepted definition:
Greenwashing (n) – Disinformation created by a company so as to present an environmentally-responsible public image.
And let's extrapolate it to my own terminology which does not seem to have a commonly-accepted definition:
Genderwashing (n) – Superficially supporting women while doing nothing to affect the power structures that have led to the need for this farce in the first place.
International Women’s Day 2018 has come and gone, and the companies that were advertising their “support” of women have since done nothing to very little. Trust requires a coherency between statements and actions; where are the actions?
Perhaps the most popular form of genderwashing is the appointment of women to positions of power within a company for no other reason than to check a box. This focus on diversity as an “end” rather than a “means” completely ignores every finding that diversity at all levels of a company leads to better outcomes.
I have previously written that humans have evolved with nature reinforcing that familiar is safe. In male-dominated leadership, this manifests as males trusting males. I also wrote that feeling safe is not the same as being safe, which aptly describes the companies experiencing discrimination lawsuits.
Genderwashing does not address the salary gap.
Money is Zero-Sum
By definition, money is zero-sum at a company. If I paid you more, I have to pay someone else less. Your gain is their loss. If you are a familiar-and-therefore-safe-male, it is your gain.
Why is one person at the top worth millions of dollars every year while the majority of a company suffers? I can’t figure this out either. Employees that are well-paid generally have less stress in their personal life and are generally happier and more productive at work.
The standard claim is that “the male at the top” is under a lot of pressure and “deserves” that salary as part of ensuring that the company survives. Nobody stops to consider that simply paying employees more – especially that extremely stressed person at the bottom who is struggling to survive – will lead to a better result for everyone. Oh, right. More pay at the bottom means less pay at the top. It is better for everyone to be stressed.
(Of course, many studies show that compensation is not what makes people happy at work. I have written about this previously – I would simply like to point out that although money doesn’t buy happiness, it is certainly a main factor driving quality of life.)
I believe in a universal basic income. Those that have the privilege of paying themselves an unreasonable salary have a duty not to do so. Their birth lottery should not increase the suffering of those around them.
Humans evolved in an environment of scarcity. We are cognitive misers because thinking requires calories, and calories were once scarce for all. For example, people usually stop looking for better solutions when the first solution is found. Along this vein, we stop noticing what is going on around us when we become comfortable. The comfort of having more leads to wanting more. Rarely does a millionaire decide to skip the exotic car because their big house is enough.
This behavior is a key driver to the income gap. Simply genderwashing a company with a well-compensated woman will not put her in a position to pull up the pay of other women. Her male counterparts will have nothing to do with that, since they are stressed about the poor output at the base. And because they have more than the base, they want more.
A Different Paradigm
Shift Sight is a flavor of Teal. The company intends to displace what is wrong rather than fight the existing paradigm. After all, willpower is exhaustible.
Most companies have a specific formula they use for setting pay. Salaries are kept secret, since transparency might lead to a gender-or-race-pay-gap correcting itself. Shift Sight is transparent inside and out – there is no better way to embody trust.
What is fair is not always equal, and what is equal is not always fair. If an employee has someone in their care, Shift Sight believes that they should be paid more than someone else doing the same job. The purpose of income is to support an employee’s needs outside of work. If an employee is forced to work a second job to support someone in their care, they are not going to do good work for Shift Sight.
We do not believe in empowering women – we believe in empowering people through self-management. How should I, a male that has been influenced by simply living the life of a male, be able to dictate what will allow you, a female that has lived a very different life, to find purpose? Only you can decide that for yourself.
Brogrammer. What a term. As males have dominated computer science, I believe that there has been an unintentional male bias applied to STEM edtech. For example, one study suggests that girls are perfectionists – which is misaligned to experimenting with software development – due to cultural influences; this limits how they get involved with STEM. Jade is being designed as a gender-free, self-directed means for children and adults to learn and have fun with STEM topics.
After Shift Sight is self-sustaining, there will be a push to have an impact fund to bootstrap startups that are currently in our position. There is a gender bias in getting women-led ventures off the ground which is exacerbating the inequality problem. A lot of investors are male, and familiar is safe.
It is extremely clear to me that the current inequalities are fueling a system that is destined to harm everyone it touches, especially those at the top that are currently benefiting from it. It is simply a matter of time.
Women are the future. I intend to do everything I can to support the women that will carry Shift Sight to its success. I do not succeed unless we all succeed.
“Kindness doesn't have to be insipid or random to be effective. Far from it: deliberate kindness can be fierce, tenacious, unexpected, unconditional and sometimes positively revolutionary.” – Dame Anita Roddick
Ty is a Founder of Shift Sight, LLC.