We are lucky to live in a period of time where professional women are making great strides in the learning and development community. But just as is clearly seen across disciplines, it can be an uphill battle for women to break into leadership roles. Today we’re going to take a first look at women in L&D as part of a new series. In this first blog we explore the state of the industry.
Women in Learning and Development
While labor numbers clearly show that women are well represented within the field, there are large disparities between gender groups as job responsibilities increase. The more senior the position, the less women are represented. In a survey of L&D professionals, one in four respondents said they had been outright discriminated against because of their gender, and made mention of how working mothers were still being penalized for having children.
If there are disparities due to gender, they pale in comparison to the disparities based on race. Women of color, as is the case across industry boundaries, face some of the most difficult odds.
While women in the field of learning and development are slowly but steadily closing the gap, with a surveyed 30% working as HR/L&D/OD Directors and 35% as HR/L&D/OD Managers, there is a noted under representation of people of color. In fact, the same study mentioned above noted that there seemed to be a wide ranging lack of leadership with diverse backgrounds. Most female L&D professionals are white and come from middle-class backgrounds. This clearly has an impact on how diverse groups view the profession and even how effective the programs can be with a more diverse audience.
The Value of Diversity
It seems outrageous that such a high number of professionals are still facing such levels of discrimination in the workplace today. Businesses need to recognize that there is tremendous opportunity in a more diverse workplace. Diversity is good for business. It provides a solid platform on which a company can better connect with their employees, with their customers, and with their target market. The cultural demographic of the business world is shifting in recognition of this fact, and the ability to create a more inclusive and welcoming workplace, full of different perspectives and wide ranging thoughts, is what will help companies succeed long term.
Barriers to Change
While the theory behind a more welcoming workplace is sound, the reality provides some unique challenges. There are many unwritten rules to abide by in order to get ahead in the business world, even in the discipline of learning and development. Successful advancement often comes from knowing the right people and making the right sacrifices that many women don’t have the opportunity or option to take. Frankly, many women are simply unwilling to “play the game”. Many companies are competitive in the wrong way, where decisions are too often either petty or political. Women also struggle to have their voices heard in group settings, not because they speak softly but because too often they are not taken seriously. These are real barriers to advancement, even in the field of L&D. But with growing awareness, from both men and women, in leadership and other positions, these barriers will weaken and a more diverse workforce will grow.
L & D is leading the way!
With more and more women entering the L&D industry, the professional field has the opportunity to truly show that they value equality. For more insight into the fast paced world of Learning and Development, reach out to the team at Clarity Consultants today.