Zero-Sum Myth

February 24, 2010If a woman lands a job, does a man lose one? Online commentary about our latest report, Pipeline’s Broken Promise, suggests that many people still believe this.

The study revealed that women MBAs from top business schools begin their careers, on average, in lower-level positions, are paid less, and receive fewer promotions than their male counterparts— regardless of global region, industry, and whether or not they have children, among other factors. I was disheartened by the findings, as were the CEOs quoted in the report. James S. Turley, Chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young, called them “surprising and disappointing.” Janice L. Fields, President and CEO of McDonalds USA, used the word “deflating.”

But online voices took a markedly different tone.

The majority of comments on the stories by ABC News and The Globe and Mail about the report expressed skepticism toward the findings. Some harbored a sexist point of view. At their core, I think the comments rested on a single fear: more women at work hurts men.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our report, Engaging Men in Gender Initiatives: What Change Agents Need to Know, revealed that men have much to gain, including better psychological and physical health and more rewarding relationships with their families. Not to mention the money angle. Think about it like this: if your wife lands a great job or gets a raise, your whole family benefits— not just your wife. So does the economy, as women control the majority of consumer spending. More cash in hand… more money to contribute.

Companies benefit as well. Catalyst research shows that companies with more women in leadership have, on average, better financial outcomes than those with fewer women in those roles. So not only are your wife, daughter— even your mother— given a fair shake in the workplace, your company gets a potential boost as well.

Diversity is not a zero-sum game. The notion that “women are taking over” at the expense of men sounds like a plot from a cheesy 1950s sci-fi flick. It’s a myth, and it’s outdated, so much so that it was recently lampooned by the Daily Show. It must be laid to rest.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.