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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a hot topic. Despite talk of progress, efforts are not bearing the desired results quickly enough, according to Deborah Gillis and Tsukiko Tsukahara, who spoke at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Women in Business Committee on May 30 at Tokyo American Club.

Gillis is president and chief executive officer of non-profit organization Catalyst, Inc. and Tsukiko Tsukahara is vice president at Catalyst Japan. At an event titled “Global Trends and Practices in Diversity and Inclusion,” both shared insight into how environments can be created to help men and women succeed.

“Around the world, women control or influence 64 percent of consumer spending,” Tsukahara began. However, the number of consumers does not reflect women in the corporate world.

“In 2017, I doubt there is anyone who would argue that this is good business strategy,” she continued. “It leaves an empty pipeline and untapped opportunity for progress, revenue, and growth.”

One of the main issues is that, although commendable, the progress made so far on gender equality in the workplace is insufficient.

“[There are] large numbers of women at entry-level roles, and smaller and smaller numbers as you advance up to the most senior leadership,” Gillis explained. “Despite awareness, despite conversation, despite good intentions—and a real desire on the part of many leaders to see change happen—we still don’t see the kind of change that we would like.”

Gillis and Tsukahara highlighted five barriers that are slowing progress.

The first barrier is the myth that good leaders are men.

“Because there have been so few women in leadership . . . the examples that we have and the norms that have been set for what leadership looks like are male—that’s the default setting,” Gillis said.

Getting rid of those stereotypes is key; but these implicit biases are strong, making it difficult for people to look at things differently. “A view that women take care, and men take charge,” she said is a stereotype both men and women hold. Gillis called this a “double bond.”

“If women are too soft, they are not strong enough to be good leaders, and if they are strong or assertive, people complain about their style and they are disliked.”

The second barrier she called “death by a thousand cuts,” citing the old boys’ clubs, networks, and circles that men are able to use and women lack. Women need people who will advocate for them and not exclude them.

The third barrier is the way “men are judged based on their potential and women are judged based on proven performance.” This means women must work harder to prove their worth.

The fourth barrier, highlighted by Tsukahara, is the fact that there are not enough male sponsors for women. “Mentors talk to you, but a sponsor talks about you,” she said.

The final issue, according to Tsukahara, is that women are not given a real chance at the fast track. “Women get offered fewer of the higher-visibility, mission-critical roles and international experience that we call ‘hot jobs.’” This is not a supply problem, she said, as there are plenty of qualified women to take the positions.

Despite these obstacles, both believe there are solutions. They encourage leaders to be inclusive, highlighting four behaviors to consider for creating an inclusive workplace: Empowerment, Accountability, Courage, and Humility. Gillis calls this the EACH framework.

“We need to create an openness where men don’t feel that they are blamed, where they are encouraged to be part of the conversation,” Gillis said. Tsukahara added that we need to “flip the script,” meaning changing common terms and phrases used for women in the workplace.

This all ties in with changing and challenging workplace stereotypes and engaging men in this effort. Ultimately, both believe it must be everyone’s problem to solve.

Maxine Cheyney is a staff writer at The Journal.