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Think You Don't Have a Boys' Club? Take This Test and Be Sure.

Think You Don't Have a Boys' Club? Take This Test and Be Sure.
Image credit: Shutterstock

We read a lot about “boys’ clubs.” They are power circles of men, mostly white, who control, formally or informally, organizations or silos within them.

The gender demographics of the senior leadership team may be relevant but is not dispositive as to whether a boys’ club exists. I have seen organizations with senior leadership teams lacking in gender diversity that are not, in my opinion, run by a boys’ clubs. Conversely, I have seen organizations where the numbers at the top look good in terms of gender diversity but a core boys’ clubs calls the shots.

So, how do you know if you have a boys’ club? Of course, there is no test. So, I have created one. Warning from this lawyer -- write your answers on a piece of paper and then throw it away.  Don’t want your self-evaluation to be used against you in litigation by a plaintiffs’ lawyer.

Now, as for each of the five questions:

  1. If you generally agree, answer A
  2. If you are not sure, answer B
  3. If you generally disagree, answer C

The questions:

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1. We don’t have a boys’club.

Almost everyone knows that boys’ clubs exist. But many believe that they exist only at the employer next store. Certitude is a good thing. But, on this issue, a little doubt is a good thing. Indeed, if you are sure that you don’t have a boys’ club, you probably do. So give yourself:

  • 2 points for A
  • 0 points for B and C

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2. We don’t need a system for raises or promotions. Merit will prevail.

Often the gender gap at the top is because women don’t have the opportunities they need to get there. Absence of meaningful opportunities also contributes to the gender pay gap. No one system works for all. But “no system” never works.

No system often leads to what the EEOC calls “people like me” bias. Those in charge of opportunities give them to those just like them -- often other men. So some vehicle to measure equal access to opportunity is essential. Merit will prevail but only if there is equal access to opportunity. Time to score it:

  • 2 points for A
  • 1 points for B
  • 0 points for C

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3. More than a few informal meetings are held in bars.

Social inclusion is a form of business inclusion. Information is shared, strategies are developed and relationships formed and/or cemented. Of course, many men don’t relish business in bars. And, there are women who do. Bu the local watering hole is often the club house for the boys' club. The same is true of the golf course. Let's score it:

  • 2 points for A
  • 0 points for B and C

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4. The pay gap is due to employer practices and employee choices.

There is no doubt that there is a gender pay gap. Those who doubt it sound as credible as men who deny the existence of labor pains because they never have experienced them. But the gender gap is not due solely to employer practices. If you step out of the game to be the primary caregiver, when you step back in, you will make less. And, women are still more likely than men to be primary caregivers. As for points, the pattern you may have predicted no longer holds.

  • Subtract 1 point if you picked A (you have thought about the issue.)
  • No points for B or C, but if you picked C, you may see bias in certain cases where it does not exist.

5. Women mentoring women is essential to shutting down the club.

No. And here’s why. There are fewer women at the top so women mentoring women will deprive women disproportionately of access to the top. The burden of gender equality cannot be put entirely on women (particularly since men and women alike benefit from gender equality). The benefits to cross-gender matching are significant in terms of what each gender can impart and learn.

  • 2 points for A
  • 0 points for B
  • Subtract one point if you picked C (again, you have thought about this issue).

Now, add up all of your points, subtracting points where you have earned them.

If you have five points or more, you may have a boys’ club in your organization but don’t see it. If you have fewer than 5 points, you still may have a boys’ club somewhere in your organization, but you are primed to help dismantle it.