Workplace gender equality is achieved when both male and female employees are able to enjoy and access the same opportunities, resources, and benefits, in the absence of any type of gender discrimination. Both developed and emerging economies have made significant progress towards gender equality in the last few decades, particularly in sectors such as education and health. However, a lot more needs to be done to achieve gender equality in business organizations in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Employers have been and can continue to be the flag-bearers of the gender-equality movement. The decisions they make today, can in the near future ensure a thriving gender-diversity in various industry sectors. Here in this post, we will outline six great ways employers can promote and improve gender equality at their organizations:
1. Consider Women for Leadership Roles
According to a report titled – The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 – released by the World Economic Forum, women represent less than 50% of leaders in every industry the researchers analyzed at that time. In some sectors such as manufacturing, mining, energy, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) representation of women in leadership roles drops to a meager 20%.
It is a commonly mistaken belief that women don’t do well in senior-level roles. Usually, when the top management roles are taken up by men, they often tend to develop an unconscious bias that women are only suitable for support-oriented roles.
If a company has not been hiring women for senior roles, it should re-evaluate job requirements for the senior leadership team and identify barriers the HR department or the top management has erected that prevent women from applying or qualifying for senior roles. In many cases, the company board may be blissfully unaware of the existence of such barriers.
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No, companies need not dilute the set of requirements for a position. It is understandable that businesses want to hire the best candidates for leadership roles but they need to consider additional experiences and qualifications to attract a wider pool of talent.
For instance, if not too many women have headed finance departments of construction companies at the national level, can a business organization asking for ‘3 years of hands-on experience in leading a similar enterprise at national level’ for the position of ‘Chief Financial Officer’ expect to attract female candidates who may have the required caliber for the job? It is easy to guess an answer to this question.
Companies with a better representation of women in leadership roles tend to have improved gender equality in the workplace. Such companies also attract more female workers due to opportunities in professional growth and mentorship.
2. Remove the Gender Pay Gap
According to a report released by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff in April 2016, a female worker in the United States earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns; on average, a female worker’s median annual income is $10,800 less than a male worker.
In the last few years, significant progress has been made towards achieving pay parity between the genders but the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that 100% pay parity cannot be achieved until the year 2059!
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This trend is likely to continue unless business leaders of today decide to change it.
Employers who are keen to promote gender equality in their organizations should know that the gender wage gap continues to exist because of a culture of secrecy. The need of the hour is to introduce a new corporate culture of transparency wherein both men and women are compensated equally for shouldering an identical set of responsibilities. For instance, employers can define one pay bracket for one position that outlines the salary and benefits for that role, regardless of whether a male or female candidate gets it. When an organization is completely transparent about the fact that it pays equal wages to employees working in certain capacities, regardless of their gender, it sends out a strong message that it stands firmly against gender-biases.
Beyond gender pay parity, employers should also institute policies that encourage fair and equal treatment of candidates of both sexes in recruitment, training, and promotion.
3. Help Employees Achieve Work-Life Balance
Both male and female employees may find it hard to put in their 100% efforts at work if they are stressed about family matters or their personal lives. What if a male or female employee needs to devote a few hours each day to take care of kids or sick and elderly members of the family?
Employers need to be mindful of taking steps to help both male and female employees achieve a harmonious work-life balance.
Generally, its women, who have a hard time reaching their career goals due to the absence of childcare facilities in business organizations. Insufficient childcare support from business organizations leads to a significant drop in the participation of the female labor force. According to a report released by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in June 2018, “women do 4 times more unpaid care work than men in Asia and the Pacific.” The report estimates that women do a whopping 76.2% of unpaid care work globally. In Asia and the Pacific, the figure rises to 80%.
Harvard Economics Professor Claudia Goldin in her book titled ‘Understanding the Gender Gap’ notes that women earn less money simply because they prefer flexibility over salary; they are more likely to turn down well-paying jobs simply because these jobs come with more demanding hours.
Companies that come forward to provide support for childcare and elderly care can reduce the high attrition rate in female employees.
When instituting a policy to help women employees manage their family responsibilities in tandem with job duties, companies should also consider providing paternal leaves to fathers. It not only enables mothers to concentrate more on work but also allows fathers to get involved in raising children.
4. Prevent Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
While some businesses are learning how to empower brands by empowering women, there are many others, who need an introductory course on what constitutes workplace gender discrimination and how to stop it.
According to a report published by the United States Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) in June 2016, nearly one-third of around 90,000 complaints received by the EEOC in the year 2015 were related to workplace harassment; the EEOC recovered $164.5 million for employees alleging harassment. Among other things, these complaints included allegations of unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace.
It goes without saying that workplace harassment including gender discrimination in the workplace often goes unreported. The EEOC also notes that the numbers stated in its report are far too low to truly reflect the ground reality.
Many employees simply choose to avoid the harasser, downplay the seriousness of the situation or just try to forget, ignore or even endure the unlawful behavior. In any case, several victims of sexual harassment either decide to switch employers or lose focus on work. Workplace sexual harassment can have a devastating effect on employee productivity, team productivity, and organization culture.
Employers ignoring or mishandling incidents or complaints of sexual harassment practically send out the message that gender inequality is officially condoned and even encouraged within the organization.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to institute and implement an effective policy to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace. The company can, either in the policy itself or a related HR document, describe in detail the consequences that will arise from sexual harassment in the workplace. The policy should be communicated to all employees of the organization. From time to time, it is equally important to train supervisors as well as workers on how to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. In many states, it is a legal requirement to do so.
Employers should not just encourage both male and female workers to report workplace sexual harassment but also provide them with easy avenues for reporting such incidents. Employees should have no fear of retaliation. Such fears are not without a reason; ‘One 2003 study found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation,’ a report (2003) by the EEOC had suggested.
Employees reporting sexual harassment through proper channels should have the confidence that their complaint would be kept confidential and acted upon by a supervisor or the concerned official in the HR department.
5. Provide Gender Equality Training to Managers
Whether a company has more male or female employees taking up senior roles across the board or in certain departments, it needs to provide them with thorough training on how to achieve workplace gender equality in both spirit and letter. Often, its unconscious biases that lead to discriminatory behavior in the workplace.
The managers need to be well aware of what constitutes obvious or subtle gender discrimination. They should also understand how to identify potential signs of discrimination when it takes place among their juniors.
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For instance, a hiring manager may inadvertently prefer male candidates over female candidates for vacant positions or an office supervisor may pass comments that explicitly downplay the role of a female employee. Gender discrimination in the workplace comes in different shades and sizes. It can be subtle or overt; at times, gender discrimination may even mask itself as workplace ageism.
A business organization cannot inculcate a culture of equality among male and female employees overnight with a policy document. It needs to keep spreading awareness on gender equality among all its employees, beginning with people in leadership roles at various roles.
Monthly seminars, annual training programs or routine participatory workshops can go a long way in helping employees examine their own biases and thus help create a gender-sensitive workforce. When employees are mindful of their stereotypes or unconscious biases, they are far more likely to careful to avoid intentional or unintentional gender discrimination in behavior or speech.
6. Alter Hiring Practices to Increase Gender Diversity in the Workplace
An inclusive, gender-diverse workplace is more productive. An employer should have analysts gather organization-wide employee data and analyze it for gender diversity in various roles, departments, and locations.
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A thorough audit can help employers identify potential gaps that can be filled through systematic processes and well-defined policies such as:
- Better job descriptions: Certain phrases, words, and the manner in which job requirements are specified can attract or repel male or female candidates. Hiring managers or those responsible for preparing job descriptions for vacant positions at a company should be careful in making such text gender-neutral.
- Restructure interview process: Make sure each candidate applying for a certain position is asked the same set of questions.
- Blind resume interviews: When reviewing resumes, gender-bias can go both ways. A female hiring manager may tend to overlook male candidates and vice-versa. In order to reduce gender preferences for specific roles and improve gender-diversity, a company’s HR department can eliminate names or gender information when candidates’ resumes are reviewed.
- Use standardized selection procedures: Companies should choose standardized candidate selection tools and procedures that eliminate gender-bias and provide hiring managers with clear information about a candidate’s qualifications and professional competencies.
- Assign roles based on competence: There’s a common tendency for companies to stereotype tasks, activities or jobs by assigning them to male or female recruits on specific masculine or feminine traits. Once a candidate has been hired for a position, he or she should be assigned a set of tasks or activities based on his or her professional competencies.
If gender-bias runs deep in an organization, chances are that its HR policies are rife with such biases too. Therefore, the top management should start by altering a company’s hiring practices to increase gender diversity in the workplace.
Gender equality in workplaces can help improve an organization’s overall productivity, enhance its ability to attract talent and retain valuable employees, and improve its reputation. Employers cannot fix all of the world’s problems but they sure can make an effort towards creating a work environment that’s better for everyone. It is never too late for an organization to take the first step and follow the recommended practices for achieving gender equality.
Disclaimer: This is not legal information. No attorney-client privileges are substantiated from this article.
I am writing to introduce myself as Frank Feldman I am the PR Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates, one of the largest law firms committed solely to representing employees in their disputes with employers in California.