Michele Meyer Shipp Hero

Dress for Success’ Michele Meyer-Shipp on Gender Inequality

Dress for Success CEO Michele Meyer-Shipp will join us on stage at the i4cp 2023 Next Practices Now Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona (March 27-30, 2023) to discuss gender inequality. She recently sat down with i4cp to share some insights. In this preview of her conference discussion, she talks about the forms that gender inequality is taking on a global scale and how HR leaders should be thinking differently about identifying and recruiting underrepresented talent.

In your first year as CEO of Dress for Success, what have been your key priorities, and how has your background as both a chief people officer and head of DE&I informed your decision making?

  • Getting to know our many stakeholders and understanding their needs, challenges, and opportunity areas.
  • Building a culture of collaboration inside Dress for Success Worldwide and across our affiliated network of 140+ affiliates in 23 countries.
  • My background has proven critical for me--building trust, building relationships, working across diverse teams with different cultural backgrounds and expectations--have been front and center skillsets that I have had to activate to accomplish these priorities.  

How has your view of people and HR changed as a result of your new role? What would you recommend to CHROs and other people leaders to do differently, from the perspective of a CEO?

  • As a CEO, I now see more clearly that we cannot assume that everyone sees the bigger picture that we see – they don’t know what they don’t know; and when that happens, people make assumptions and that often leads to confusion and lack of alignment. 
  • I recommend transparency, frequent communication, collaboration, and giving employees open avenues to reach out to ask questions and share ideas.

You’ll be talking about gender inequality at the i4cp conference. What does that look like on a global scale?

  • The Covid-19 pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation, and the looming recession in most of the world (in the U.S. alone, consumer prices rose 8.2 percent in the year through September 2022) have spotlighted the most apparent gender inequity in the world in 2022: that crises – global and local – hit women first and harder. This has many implications. One of them, directly related to the mission of Dress for Success, is the impact such crises have over women in the workforce, as they affect their ability to find jobs and advance in the workforce.
  • The imbalance of household responsibilities between women and men, and the disproportion in caregiving (with women being the primary caregivers), have also been exacerbated by these crises, even though they have been present for centuries. The lack of caregiving support, for example, is overwhelmingly affecting professional women of childbearing years. See Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden.
  • A second level of gender inequities relates to access for women to fair compensation, and to leadership roles. The most apparent indicator is that, on average, we need another 132 years to achieve gender pay parity. And despite the many benefits for businesses of having women in leadership roles and as members of boards, the majority of companies around the world have men on top of the ladder.
  • In addition, women continue to face violence, discrimination, and even fatalities due to gender bias in many parts of the world. Domestically, the Roe w. Wade Supreme Court overturn highlighted the need to double the effort to defend women’s rights--especially those of the most vulnerable women.  And, on a global level, the courage of women demonstrating against gender bias in many different corners of the world, showcases their determination and their need for support. 

How should the CHROs in the room think differently about identifying and recruiting female/underrepresented talent in various regions?

  • Consider returnship programs
  • Consider apprenticeship training programs
  • Cast a wider net in sourcing outreach efforts – wherever you currently look: how diverse it is demographically, etc.
  • Reconsider job qualifications--what type of education the job really requires and what value is placed on real-world work experience as a substitute for no college or grad degree
  • Consider job share opportunities
  • Educate leaders on how to create inclusive work environments

What are the top three critical issues (external or internal trends, events, etc.) that you sense pose the greatest potential to disrupt your organization in 2023? How will those critical issues impact your HR/people functions?

  • Inflation and the looming recession (external)
  • The pandemic (external)
  • Lack of alignment (internal)
  • These issues will require our HR leaders to be much more agile and innovative

What actions (from a people perspective) are you prioritizing in the coming year to best position your organization to succeed in 2023?

  • Creating a new strategic plan that is aligned with current needs of our entire global affiliated network during these evolving times
  • A brand refresh
  • Reassessing operational model and skillsets needed to execute refreshed strategy.