The Double Glass Ceiling: Vikki Leach

Avanade Inc.

July 05, 2016

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Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship @Avanade.

When I was asked to write a blog on the double glass ceiling the timing was incredible.

Recently, I was in Los Angeles. I turned on the news and was devastated by the Orlando tragedy that happened 12th June at Pulse, the largest Gay Club in Orlando where a gunman entered the club, opened fire and shot 50 people dead.

I'm also reading a powerful book right now, 'The Glass Closet' by Lord John Browne, the former CEO of BP, where his sexuality was publicly announced by his former partner in the UK media.

Here I share my comments and some research on what the 'double glass ceiling' is about. I have commented on Lord Browne's book, referred to research by Stonewall (UK Leading LGBT NGO) and have added my views.

A hot topic is women in the work place. We have all heard about the glass ceiling, where women experience barriers and aren't progressing in their careers. Is this true or just a myth?

Firstly, at Avanade, there is a great environment to have diverse conversations, as employees we are invited to participate in; Dialogues on Diversity, International Women's Day, The Aspire Foundation, Networks, 15 for 15 Avanade Scholarship program, and Employee Resource Groups.

We are all diverse by default, but are we inclusive? I firmly believe that being inclusive creates a strong culture, diversity of thought and ultimately inclusive for all, which leads to real creativity in the workplace.

So let's add another layer, stretching our thinking further; the double glass ceiling for women. This is where women in the workplace who are gay may experience the (myth or truth) of the glass ceiling.

So we bring the debate further on about the 'double glass ceiling', being gay and being a woman in the work place. According to research, women felt that their identity as a woman, and being able to achieve their potential as a woman, was of greater concern than the need to be accepted as a gay woman.

The lack of visibility may in part come from the fact that many women feel unprepared to 'put their hand up twice' and be open about their sexuality, as they are already identified as a 'minority' group.

A lot of women in the workplace don't want to put their hands up twice, once for being a woman and then secondly 'by the way, I'm gay'. They feel it's hard enough being a woman in the work place without having to take on board any mission or responsibility for calling out that they're gay as well.

Evidence shows that gay women tend to earn more than heterosexual female colleagues, but still do not earn as much as their male counterparts doing a similar role.

In Lord Browne's book, he alludes to the possible explanations: Gay women are less likely to have children, they do not experience delays in their career progression as frequently as heterosexual women.

Research also shows that, compared to heterosexual women, they work longer hours and, on average, have obtained higher education qualifications. This behavior may be part of a strategy for survival, knowing that they will not marry a man who will be likely to command a higher salary, therefore overcompensate in the pursuit of economic security.

Whether we believe the previous paragraph or not, my personal view is if we focus on getting more minority groups in decision-making positions, we will achieve an inclusive environment more quickly and generational parity is key to this.

I believe in equality, whether you are LGBT, or of any other minority and sadly that does not play out in the workplace, still now in the 21st century.
Aren't we saying the only 'majority group' is the white male? I often wonder how they feel, and whether they feel targeted. They too have mothers, potentially have female partners, daughters, nieces.

For me, it's just about education and understanding individuals that are different to you. It's not until you meet and embrace that person who is different to you, you will respect their differences. Regardless of our backgrounds, if we experience inclusion we are more likely to feel safe to share our background.

When we say 'bringing your whole self to work' results in better performance, I believe this is where the impact lies for organizations. Right now, two million gay women in the UK remain almost invisible at work.

There are a lack of openly gay female role models in the workplace and only one female (UK) parliamentarian out of more than 1,300 is openly gay.

To summarize, when leaders in an organization understand these added layers of diversity and embrace the challenges their employees may face, only then can they begin to build a truly inclusive culture, which then brings true innovation to teams. But we need to spend time on this, integrate it into our thinking, and sometimes we just don't have the time to stop and do this.

I remember when people used to say 'there is no I in team.' I always challenged that. I is for 'individuality', which makes me challenge all the team building (one team) 'stuff' employees are sent on. If we can embrace the 'I' in team, the one that we've been warned about, then I believe we will build respect for individuality.

Vikki Leach
Senior Director, Global Corporate Citizenship

Based in the UK, responsible for Avanade's Global Corporate Citizenship Approach.

A specialist in Corporate Citizenship & Diversity and Inclusion.

Senior professional with extensive experience in engaging business leaders and delivering cross country change programs in diversity and inclusion, culture and engagement, communications and corporate citizenship. Widespread experience in operating in fast-changing, dynamic and results focused businesses.

Over 15 years of experience in the technology industry driving change programs with diverse and complex challenges, taking into consideration the local business needs, and the company's global vision. What drives this is a diverse mix of people, with different backgrounds and experiences.

My passion in life is equality. This is representative in my professional career and my personal career in sport.

Everyone has a talent, it's about unleashing it, and the talent is more likely to be unleashed in a supportive, inclusive and equal environment. Teams that work together outperform those that don't. Success feels better when it's shared with others.

Equality = Inclusion = Innovation = Success.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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