With the myriad regulations and laws in place, we shouldn’t still be talking about Gender Equality in the workplace, but we are. Pay equality is vital, and while that’s a big part of the big picture, it’s not the only issue at play. Poor maternity leave policies, sexual harassment, and unconscious bias also top the list of disadvantages preventing women from succeeding and thriving in the workplace. It’s not just a US problem, it’s a global problem.
The Council of Foreign Relations ranks the United States as 20th in workplace equality. 79 percent of global companies aren’t prioritizing gender equality in their workplaces and it seems that American gender equality has started to stall. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take about 200 years for the gender gap to close.
Your business can’t fix the world’s problems, but you can make your workplace a better place for everyone. While you can’t offer benefits specific to only women, because that would be illegal and unethical, there are ways to make your workplace more equality friendly.
- Historically, one of the reasons women earn less money than men is because they prefer or need flexibility over salary. They may turn down a promotion that requires more responsibility, demanding hours, or unpredictable hours. Given, not all jobs have the option of being flexible, but it doesn’t mean that that most jobs can’t have some flexibility worked into them. Both men and women alike may benefit from more flexible hours that let them work around their home life or the option to work from home either full or part time. In fact, generations younger than the Baby Boomers put life/work balance as a priority and will only work with businesses who honor that and offer flexibility!
- Equal doesn’t always mean the same. Management often thinks they need to treat each employee exactly the same so that they don’t raise any red flags. However, treating people equal doesn’t always mean you have to treat them the same. Phil might prefer working 8-5 with an hour lunch and having an cubicle right near the water cooler so he can engage with people. Ellen might prefer working 8:30-5 with only a half hour lunch and having a cubicle in a corner away from distractions. They might have the same role in the company, but they have different needs that help them get their job done and balance work and life.
- Updating hiring practices. Companies with higher gender diversity perform better than those with lower gender diversity. Assess your current company culture and hiring process and consider promoting gender equality with better job descriptions, having a diverse interview panel, proactively sourcing a gender diverse pipeline, having fair compensation practices, and learning from exit interviews. A happy workforce always equates to a better customer experience and in turn typically helps the bottom line. As a recruiting and search consultant, I assist our clients in their efforts to focus on diverse hiring.
- Lead by example. Promote gender equality by granting leadership roles for deserving candidates, irrespective of their gender. Industries such as Energy, Mining, and Manufacturing have very low women leadership representation at just 20% globally. Better representation of women in leadership roles inadvertently improves gender equality at the workplace as more women will be hired across the board.
- Equal Pay. Pay should be dependent on the job role and a pay structure that improves transparency will eliminate discriminatory pay rate issues. Consider conducting an annual pay audit to evaluate whether gender bias is taking place in an organization or not.
- Prioritize work/life balance. Women are often tasked with taking care of the children and family. Instilling a healthy work-life balance creates a healthy work environment and minimizes stress levels in the workplace. As noted above, new hires are being more demanding when it comes to protecting their life outside of the office. If you want to attract top talent, this should be on your radar.
- Strict and enforced harassment policies. On average one out of four women have been either physically or mentally harassed in the workplace. It is the employer‘s responsibility to have a keen eye on these issues and stop women from being Ignorance towards such activities at the workplace is a clear indication of gender inequality happening within the organization. Beyond your ethical responsibility to do so, if you don’t comply you will open yourself up for lawsuits and bad PR. Doing the right thing is just good business practice.
These are just a few of the ways your organization can combat Gender Inequality. Is it something that will be solved in the next 12 – 24 months, probably not, but 200 years is way too long!