Earned Spot

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Equality, Like Great Movies, Requires Attention to All of the Details

“I was waiting for the universe to dispense some justice but sometimes the universe is just too damn slow. The effects of putting Nair in someone’s styling gel, however, only take a few minutes.” – Murphy, “Murphy Brown,” Warner Bros., 1988

We seldom research and rehearse when we go to a professional luncheon but for this year’s SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) WIP (Women in Post) luncheon, we studied harder than we did for our master’s degree.

No not to justify the way things are but to have some facts at my fingertips that illustrate positive changes that are taking place.

You know:

  • At the recent IBC, 30 percent of the speakers were professional females
  • 35 percent of the titles (121) at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) were directed or co-directed by women
  • Salesforce’s Marc Benioff spent $6M, actively pushing for tech equality
  • IBM’s Ginni Rometty should be a gold standard measure for anyone who is being considered for the top job at a company … male or female

We thought a broad spectrum of positive points would be best to show there is a commitment to equality and a better environment for everyone rather than dwell on the gloomy side.

If that didn’t quite work, we were ready with a foolproof backup – “Did you catch the return of Murphy Brown to TV. Sure, glad Warner and CBS brought it back and is addressing today’s issues – cable news, social media, fake news, and a very different political and cultural climate than when it left the air in 1988.”

O.K., the facts didn’t get a lot of traction, but we had a great discussion about Murphy Brown because it is great, timely video storytelling.

Murphy was a great role model in ‘80s.

She showed that a female could be tough, kind, focused, driven, have a personal and professional life, be respected and listened to as a boss/major contributor and even get national political attention (some like to say Dan Quayle lost a lot of points when he belittled single parenting).

We agreed Murphy Brown will have political overtones; but it’s still a comedy and hopefully, great storytelling that will again get the point across that women and boomers (Murphy is 30 years older, after all) deserve a seat at the Millennial male table.

It just takes some longer than others to see the benefits of not being a knuckle dragger.

May Be Coincidence – It’s probably just a coincidence that women’s progress slowed about the time Murphy Brown left the air. We’ll see if it gains momentum now that the show is back on the air.

According to Pew Research, the World Bank and the US Labor Department, EU countries like Sweden, Finland, Netherlands and France have made equality a priority, while less forward-looking countries like the US have let things stall

According to Pew Research and the World Bank:

  • There are 1.75B working women around globe
  • The median female share of the workforce is 45.4 percent
  • In Sweden, 2/3 of university degrees are earned by women
  • In the US, 60 percent of degrees are earned by women

However, gender parity is still tough:

  • Around the globe, women earn 60-75 percent less than men
  • Estimates are that it will take 170 years to close the gender pay gap around the globe
  • Bringing women’s/men’s pay in line would add $28T to global GDP

Some countries and companies are just a little more progressive than others and the results are pretty amazing.

Salesforce’s Marc Benioff has made equality and diversity a priority in his firm since 2015, initially focusing on equal pay.

Early Bonding – The first few weeks/months are an important period for a family to welcome the new baby into the family and ensure the relationship is positive. While most countries realize the importance of this by giving mothers paid leave, a growing number of companies are encouraging participation and connection by both parents. It also encourages shared responsibility for both parents.

With Benioff’s support, the company audited its staff pay; and to his surprise, found a statistical difference in pay between men and women.

“It was everywhere,” Benioff said in an interview. “It was through the whole company, every department, every division, every geography.”

He fixed the problem by dedicating $3M that year to correct the discrepancy, and another $3M last year to correct compensation differences by gender, race and ethnicity across the company.

He told his organization he would not hold a meeting unless at least 30 percent of those in attendance were women and encouraged women to be promoted and seen as leaders.

Gender parity is tough.

While both sexes are equally capable, “most” recognize that females are superior to guys in certain management skills.

Yes But – Individually, people agree women are superior in most of the key capabilities needed for a successful company; but somehow, that doesn’t get translated into advancement and earnings equality.

There are exceptions on both sides; but according to a recent Pew report, women are better in the soft attributes of being a good team player; strong team leader; more compassionate and empathetic; better at standing up for what they believe in and compromise; and able to maintain a tone of civility and respect even in tense situations.

Most “normal” folks see few differences between men and women on the qualities and competencies needed to be an effective leader.

And women are consistently proving they’re not only equal to the task but often better.

Ginni Rometty, of IBM, is currently one of the tech industry’s most successful CEOs.

Unlike HP’s Carly Fiorina, chosen for her tenacious, aloof style and Yahoo Marissa Mayer, chosen for her talents and experience as a middle manager at Google, Rometty was groomed and tested for years on all of the rigors and responsibilities of her current job.

Her work was constantly monitored and evaluated by a team of her peers and the company’s board.

When she stepped into her current role; she had a strong sense of the depth, breadth and diversity that was needed to keep the company on track.

She has all of the soft attributes you expect and just enough of the hard attributes to know when to push, when to draw the line, when to walk away.

About the only areas – at least by perception – men dominate are willingness to take a risk and negotiation skills; but then, those folks have probably never seen our daughter and wife in action.


Where it counts today, women are superior … creating a safe, respectful workplace and mentoring next-generation leaders.

Still, with numbing regularity, yearly corporate studies remind us that few women lead our largest corporations.

Male CEOs are counted in 100s/1000s, while a list of female leaders could be put on a Post-it.

Silicon Valley’s start-up and investment communities are by no means perfect, but they have finally come to realize some embarrassing truths.

Cash Register Measurement –There are always exceptions you can point to, but women or mixed founded companies appear to be more carefully managed than their male-only counterparts.


  • Tend to run more profitable companies
  • Are more likely to form healthcare, hospitality, retail, consumer goods firms
  • Burn through less money
  • Provide better shareholder returns

Despite a seemingly better track record, female founders raise 4X less than men – median $50.4M vs. $226M and their valuations are lower – $65.5M vs. $400.4.

Of course, one reason for the lopsided investment ratio might be that 90 percent of the VCs are male.

It has only been in the last few years that the firms have been adding female partners to help them understand and invest in half of the world’s population.

While men continue dominate the CEO, CTO positions of tech firms, women are increasingly entering the executive ranks as COO and CSO. They’re the folks who foster diversity and inclusion across the organization.

Still, we’re a long way from achieving parity. Except for Salesforce’s highly visible and widely discussed pay equality commitment, women still suffer the salary penalty.

Focus Needed – Much to his amazement, Benioff found that even Salesforce suffered from inequity in pay for females on his team. Unlike Benioff, few CEOs confront and rectify the situation, so it persists.

According to a recent Glassdoor report, women are paid, on the average of five cents less on the dollar than men – same position, equal qualifications/experience, same firm.

One of the reasons as Sallie Krawcheck, founder of Ellevest, pointed out is that there is a natural reticence for people talking about how much they make, and women tend to undervalue their education, experience and corporate value in salary negotiations.

Even though it may not be fast enough, things are changing.

The hardest thing to change is perception and the human mind.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, summed up the challenge by saying, “Aggressive and hard-charging women violate unwritten rules about acceptable social conduct. Men are continually applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty.”

In today’s instant news everywhere, world male bosses are also quick to realize they stepped in it.

Speaking at the Women in Computing Conference a few years ago, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, got immediate feedback when he said women don’t need to ask for a raise and should instead put their trust in the male-dominated system.

Fire your script writer, dude!

He stumbled to recover saying, “I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, you should just ask.”

It was the best mea culpa he could make at the time.

Pointing the Way – Lewis and Clark put the success of their venture in the hands of a young woman’s knowledge, which is at least on a par to running a company.

Gender parity will be achieved.

Remember, it took a native female – Sacagawea – to guide Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western portion of the US.

Digital natives and Gen Zers, should be able to do as much for full potential participation.

Achieving equality has a financial side benefit.

According to McKinsey, bringing women’s/men’s pay in line will add $38T to the annual global GDP.

Murphy is doing her part; and hopefully, it won’t be long before Jim won’t be surprised when she says, “Jim, I make as much as you do.”

She’s probably worth more … we’ll see next season.

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