As of late, there has been quite a bit written about equality in the workplace for women. First an absolutely scathing article, “Equality, Suffrage, and a Fetish for Money” was posted on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog about how ridiculous women are being in wanting equality (read the comments – it absolutely blows my mind people like Harrytoo exist in our country). Yes, on the blog of the organization that supports small businesses (thankfully the Chamber’s COO wrote a week later stating he didn’t agree with the original post).

Then, I’m going through my Google Reader last night and I find a post on Harvard Business Review called, “How Sex Hurts the Workplace, Especially Women.” An article that explores Mark Hurd’s recent scandal (Hewlett Packard CEO) as a casualty to high-achieving female executives because now men will look at the situation and think, “Poor guy was fired for dining alone with a junior woman. No one is even alleging a sexual relationship. How crazy is that! It makes me want to avoid ever being alone with a younger female colleague.”

I own a business. I employ mostly women. I don’t have children. I was always treated fairly in my jobs and, really, made more money than I probably deserved. So I’ve always had a hard time understanding how men and women aren’t treated equally on the job.

But it’s out there and a recent New York Times article shows there is 23 percent wage gap between men and women for the same, exact job. Twenty-three percent. You know why? Because “many more women take time off from work. Many more women work part time at some point in their careers. Many more women can’t get to work early or stay late.” Total baloney. The women I know who have children and work, actually work harder than their male counterparts. There is a certain guilt associated with needing to be home with the kids (that our society has created) so they go above and beyond to prove how serious they are about their careers.

Being treated equally on the job, which I strive to do with my team daily (pay, raises, bonuses, and incentives are commensurate with their goals and how they help the business grow, not on sex), is overly important to me…it’s that fairness gene I inherited from my mother. But that’s not to say that we, as a company, have been treated fairly in new business pitches or when we’re up against our male counterparts.

I’ve written about Charles Arment, an imaginary partner we made up (a la Remington Steele) for those times when new business prospects insisted on meeting my MALE partner, insinuating a woman can’t grow a business alone.  This was early on in the business when I didn’t have the confidence (or, really, the cash flow) to tell those kinds of men to stick it where the sun don’t shine; now I have zero problem walking away from someone like that.

However, not everyone owns a business. Not everyone has control of how high they can make it on the corporate ladder without being mentored by a male executive. Not everyone has a female executive (only 15 of the Fortune 500 have female executives) to support them and their growth.

I think there is only one thing we can do: Change the way we behave, as individuals, at work. Men, it is your responsiblity to show restraint and responsibility if you take on a leadership role and have female junior workers working for you. Sure an affair might be alluring, but it does more than wreak havoc at home. It has long-lasting effects on you, your colleague, your family, your career (and hers), and our society. And women? You have a responsibility not to sleep your way to the top (a Center for Work-Life Policy study shows 37 percent of women got to a leadership role through sex) and show the same kind of restraint as men. You want to be treated equally? Act like it.

What do you think?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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