Research has shown the most diverse and inclusive organizations are the most financially successful. Being able to access the widest possible range of experience, backgrounds, skills and perspectives puts your company in a stronger position to spot various opportunities and come up with fresh solutions to challenges.
One of the key diversity issues all businesses need to focus on is gender equality. With studies showing there's still plenty of scope for progress on this front, despite positive trends in recent years, it's worth asking if you could be doing more to improve gender representation in your workplace.
The latest trends in gender equality
McKinsey provided up-to-date insights into the current state of gender equality in the US in its Women in the Workplace 2021 report, which examined the latest trends in the context of COVID-19.
The research showed that women had made significant gains in representation, particularly at senior leadership level, but the pandemic "continues to take a toll". Women were found to be feeling the effects of burnout more acutely than men, and aren’t being properly recognized and rewarded for their efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
Furthermore, there was a disconnect between companies' stated commitment to racial equality and the everyday experiences of women of color.
The findings showed that women of color occupy only 4% of C-suite roles in the US, a significantly lower proportion than white women (20%) and white men (62%). Just 9% of senior manager/director positions and 12% of management jobs in American businesses are filled by women of color.
UK corporations are also falling short when it comes to appointing women to senior leadership positions, according to EY. The professional services firm's Female FTSE Board report revealed that progress is being made on gender diversity, but it's still not enough to achieve a "critical mass" of women on corporate boards.
Promoting gender equality in the workplace
If you’re ready to make a bigger commitment to gender equality, it's important to think about practical actions you can take to drive change.
1. Target bias
When there’s bias in your workplace - either in the recruitment process or in other areas of HR, such as awarding pay increases and promotions - it can hinder your efforts to achieve true equality.
Therefore, it's crucial to be vigilant to this problem and to have a clear plan to tackle it. This might include putting dedicated training programs in place to raise awareness and educate people on different types of bias, such as:
- Confirmation bias
- Cultural bias
- Selection bias
- Anchoring bias
2. Prioritize inclusive hiring
If you want to build a more equal and representative organization, it's important to start at the recruitment stage and ensure you're giving all job candidates a fair opportunity to access opportunities within your business.
There are various steps you can take to make your hiring process more inclusive, such as:
- Re-assessing and modifying job descriptions to ensure they're equally relevant and attractive to all candidates, regardless of gender.
- Analyzing the language used in job postings. For example, adjectives like 'dominant' and 'assertive' are more likely to resonate with men than women, and could create negative perceptions of your company culture.
- Assembling gender-diverse hiring panels so applicants feel fairly represented and the assessment process takes a range of views into account.
3. Analyze current pay levels
A good way to gauge current levels of gender equality in your organization is by conducting a pay audit to see if male and female employees are being fairly and equally remunerated. This should consider various factors besides gender, such as level of seniority, performance and experience.
If it becomes clear there’s a gender pay gap within the organization, consider steps you can take to close it, such as:
- Revising your salary negotiation practices to ensure they don't favor men over women
- Embracing a philosophy of transparency and accountability around pay
- Offering flexible working arrangements to help employees combine full-time work with family commitments
4. Provide equality training and information
Initiatives to improve gender equality in the workplace are likely to deliver much clearer and more worthwhile results if they have full support from individuals at every level of the business.
One of the most effective ways to get everyone involved in this mission is by providing training, education and awareness-raising materials.
When people fully understand the seriousness of gender inequality and the damaging impact it can have, they’ll be much more committed to helping eliminate it from your business.