Workplace gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender. The grass-roots #MeToo campaign has roared from a single tweet to a global movement. As women have called out predators from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Congress, companies have rushed to fire up employee hotlines to out offenders. MBA programs have added ethics seminars to challenge bro culture in the office.
The aim of gender equality in the workplace is to achieve broadly equal outcomes for women and men, not necessarily outcomes that are exactly the same for all. Despite the strides that have been made in improving gender equality in companies, female workers are still paid significantly less than their male counterparts, and women continue to be underrepresented in senior management roles. Although it may be tempting to resolve gender inequality within a company by focusing only on women, gender inclusiveness needs to focus on both men and women as initiatives involving only part of the workforce will likely have reduced results.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, warned of a backlash some time ago. But we must beware of the resistance. In a recent Facebook post, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg noted a simmering male reaction to the burst of sexual allegations. She wrote, “I have already heard the rumblings of a backlash: ‘This is why you shouldn’t hire women.’ ” Sandberg suggested that men need to lean in to the issue. But how can we get them to lean in if they don’t want to talk about it? And if fewer women are hired for leadership jobs, will the chance of resolving the larger list of unsolved gender issues vanish?
While discrimination and unequal pay is illegal, the facts show that there remain to be tremendous obstacles in equal opportunities, and employers play a vitally important role in overcoming these hurdles in their workforces.
Some suggestions to consider for your workplace environment and policies include;
- Re-evaluate job specifications for the senior management team
In the case of companies not hiring women for senior level roles, they should identify what barriers they have constructed which has led to fewer job applications from women. Considering the return-to-the-workforce angle for women may improve statistics in considering 10 years of experience rather than mandating a 15 year mark.
- Remove the gender pay gap, be transparent about it!
The gender pay gap can only continue if a culture of secrecy is encouraged within a company. Each position should have a pay bracket that outlines the salary for that role. Buffer, the social media management platform is an excellent example of a company that has embraced transparency across the entire organization. Since 2013, they have shared their salary details for each member of staff and provided a salary calculator to allow anyone to quickly calculate what they could earn at Buffer and see the compensation for each role. While going to these lengths is not ideal for most companies, the pay brackets for each position should be outlined to eliminate any bias.
- Make work/life balance a priority for your employees
While research has shown that the gender pay gap is narrowing for young workers, it is widening among working mothers as they are effectively suffering a pay penalty for taking time off. Companies need to play a vital role in supporting mothers by working together to agree on a fair and balanced workplace that will promote productivity, while also allowing flexibility and the option to work remotely where possible.
- Make mentors available to everyone
The availability of an experienced mentor to help guide you through the different channels you’ll face throughout your career is invaluable, and it should be an opportunity that is open to everyone. Mentors should expect to be questioned on how to ask for pay rises within a company and advice on how to tackle any issues relating to inequality. This lack of interest in mentoring female colleagues “undoubtedly will decrease the opportunities women have at work… The last thing women need right now is even more isolation. Men vastly outnumber women as managers and senior leaders, so when they avoid, ice out, or exclude women, we pay the price,” wrote Sheryl Sandberg, who co-founded LeanIn, to promote gender equality in the workplace.
- Harassment needs to be identified and immediately stopped
At some point in their career, one in four women has been subjected to harassment at work. Management has a responsibility to ensure they step in early to both identify and stop harassment, but unfortunately, in many companies, cases of it happening are often ignored. If there are any signs of harassment taking place within your workplace – no matter how big or small – you need to stamp it out immediately and ensure a proper process is implemented to prevent such cases from happening again.
Such activity being overlooked is a clear indication that more profound gender inequality is happening within the organization, so you have the responsibility to take ownership of the problem.
Women in the Workplace 2018 is the largest comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America. Since 2015, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company have published this report annually to give companies and employees the information they need to advance women and improve gender diversity within their organizations.
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