While March 8 was celebrated as International Women’s Day, the entire month is given over to highlighting the contributions of women, worldwide, in the full range of human endeavor: commerce, science, politics, sports, arts, family, innovation, spiritual realms. However, there’d be no need for this showcase if it wasn’t for the sad fact that, worldwide, women continue to face discrimination and inequities of opportunity.
In the world of work, this shows up in many ways:
- lower pay scales for women doing the same jobs as men
- assumptions about family priority that, typically, is not presumed for male employees
- demeaning work environments in which women are expected to handle kitchen, lunchroom, or party functions
- harassment ranging from off color comments, innuendo, jokes, unwanted physical attention sometimes in exchange for promised business opportunities
For women in the workplace, this often results in lower morale, increased absenteeism, fewer opportunities for advancement and reduced retirement savings.
How do these policies or tolerances show up for you, the employer? It isn’t hard to discern. The impact for employees who experience any of the above offences may be reduced performance, lower initiative or contribution to business improvements, job satisfaction, mental health, a sense of being an outsider.
Any of these will show up in your bottom line with increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, higher turnover and, if this becomes a factor of your reputation, increased difficulty attracting talented employees.
A number of changes can be made which, over time will prevent or even repair the significant damage done by gender bias. Of course, the big picture answer is cultivating an environment of equal opportunity and reward for all who are part of your organization. Below are several suggestions to make that happen:
- Educate Workers on Gender Bias
If your employees aren’t aware that there’s an issue, they won’t make changes. Make sure your organization knows what gender bias looks like (the outright and the subtle) and how to avoid it in the workplace.
2. Standardize Pay
We’ve all heard about the gender pay gap. This might be the case in your company, it might not. Best choice is to evaluate your current pay structure to make sure you’re aware of and repair any discrepancies. People should be paid the same amount for the same job, period. Women should be encouraged to go after raises just as much as men.
3. Review Your Recruiting Process
Words used in a job description can affect who applies and who gets hired. While certain words to convey a role or responsibility is often done with little intent towards gender, they can have connotations to the reader. The mind tends to associate words with specific genders. Using words like ‘competitive’ or ‘nurturing’ easily conjure up different genders.
4. Stand Up to Gender Bias When It Happens
Whether it’s a brushed aside opinion or a bad joke at lunch, gender inequality, bias and microaggressions need to be called out when they occur. It’s how you educate all what gender bias looks like and sounds like. This doesn’t mean berating people. It can present an opportunity to teach someone else what is appropriate treatment in the workplace.
5. Offer Flexible Work Options
Work is moving further away from the physical office every day. The pandemic has highlighted the importance and current necessity of remote work now more than ever. But remote work isn’t just safer, it can also minimize gender bias, allowing men and women to optimize their working hours from the location of their choice and during the time that works with their other responsibilities.
6. Establish Mentoring Programs
Research suggests that mentoring programs make for a more diverse work hierarchy. They give minorities and women a brighter spotlight, and help them climb the professional ladder with the help of networks, skills and organizational knowledge.
Often times, it’s the lack of high-profile assignments and top-level advocates from within the company that keep women from advancing to that next level of growth. Sponsorship, the relationship in which senior, powerful people use their personal clout to highlight, advocate for and place a more junior person in a key role, can elevate women at a quicker rate than current national standards.
Do any of these ring true for you? We’ve assisted many clients to improve their work environment so all are welcome and rewarded. Let’s have a conversation to explore how we can improve your own situation to ensure all team members know they’re equally contributing and offered equal opportunities to shine.