How Business Owners/Managers Can Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace

Although society in general has made significant progress when it comes to empowering women, gender inequality in the workplace has remained prevalent in many parts of the world. In Australia in particular, female workers are earning 18.2% less than male workers despite having higher educational attainment and more qualifications, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. In addition, only a few women occupy leadership roles in our country’s top corporations and conglomerates.

As a business owner or manager, overlooking someone’s talent simply because of gender can have a detrimental effect on a company as it causes missed opportunities to utilise the many talents and skills women offer. It’s important that we recognise gender bias and realise that leaders are very diverse. It’s their capabilities, competencies and skills that matter.

So, how do we tackle this issue?

Value employees’ opinions

In many cases, women are unmotivated to attempt higher-paying roles within a company because they feel that nobody takes them or their ideas seriously. As a result, they often get passed up for promotions because they weren’t given the chance to speak out and be heard. Business owners and leaders need to value all employees’ opinions and have an open-door policy so both male and female workers can discuss concerns or suggest ideas that can help the company move towards a positive direction.

Educate everyone

According to Dr Zuleyka Zevallos of Social Science Insights, all employees should be given education and training on gender equality. Some men act the way they do towards women because they are unaware that their actions are considered sexist and may cause distress to their female colleagues. Women, on the other hand, may be afraid to speak up because they don’t know their rights and are unfamiliar with what constitutes gender inequality in the work place. If they do, it may be because they don’t want to be ostracised and seen to be creating problems in the workplace.

“Education and training raises the level of awareness about how people understand discrimination. Education also gives people different skills in dealing with gender exclusion,” Dr Zevallos said.

Provide equal growth opportunities

To stamp out gender bias, it is important to provide employees with equal opportunities for growth. Give promotions, base salaries and increase wages according to individual skills, talents, and overall contributions to the company.

Organise extra-curricular activities that require everyone’s participation

Thomas Russell, chief executive at the New Zealand-based Finsia, pointed out that the opportunity to build relationships within the company often arises in an informal setting. However, most of these “informal settings” occur after office hours and they often involve male-centric activities like drinking and sports. Many women, particularly those with families, have different demands outside of work and not many of them are unable to network outside of business hours.

As a business owner, you can create alternative extra-curricular activities that both men and women are likely to attend. For instance, you can organise company-wide social events, like luncheons or informal get-togethers, so everyone will be given the opportunity to attend, build networks, and get to know each other on a different level, not just about work.

Arrange mentoring

Quite often women lack the confidence to compete for positions, even though they are qualified and have demonstrated achievements, in contrast to men who regularly apply for positions even if they don’t fulfil all the requirements for the role.

Mentoring, whether done externally or informally within a company allows women to build confidence, learn new skills, brainstorm ideas and attain greater success.

While gender inequality in the workplace is a contentious and prevailing issue, there are uncomplicated ways to stop gender bias within your organisation. Be a good leader and employer, consider the pointers above, and give everyone the chance to live up to their full potential and make valuable contributions to your company along the way. Organisations with diversity in their leadership teams have better results, financially and culturally.

I would like to hear what positive experiences you have had in your workplace/career.

Donny

Do you deserve a pay rise?

If asked the question, most men will confidently say yes and assert why they deserve it and what they have achieved.  Most women, on the other hand, are often unsure and query if they are worthy or find it difficult to articulate their achievements because it sounds like boasting.

Why such a difference?  Donny Walford, Managing Director of national professional development and mentoring company Behind Closed Doors (BCD), says it is an inner confidence struggle that women need to get over to succeed.

“Women across Australia at all levels within an organisation report to us that they lack confidence in speaking about their achievements or themselves and are not likely to ask for a promotion or pay increase,” Ms Walford said.

“Most women don’t push themselves forward for pay rises or apply for higher positions if they feel they are not fully qualified or completely ready for more responsibilities, in stark contrast to men who regularly ‘give it a crack’.

“Research shows that women feel they need to fit the role perfectly before applying, whereas men are willing to put their hand up for a role where they only tick some of the boxes.”

A report prepared in November for the Business Council of Australia called Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Executive Positions reported that after decades of effort, only 10 per cent of key executives in ASX200 companies are female.

The report found that women lag, in terms of career prospects and remuneration, from day one on the job. As their careers progress, the gender equality gap widens, with men nine times more likely to reach senior executive ranks than women.

Ms Walford says the same is often true for women when it comes to Board roles.

“There are many reasons why women do not get invited to join Executive teams or Boards.  Women tend to think if they work hard and achieve that someone is going to tap them on the shoulder and promote them. In fact, often the opposite happens. They are not demonstrating an ability to network, position themselves and influence senior people which is necessary to go to the next levels of leadership.”

In addition, Ms Walford said women often won’t apply for leadership roles or Board directorships because they are worried about issues such as legal liabilities, their own financial credentials, Board accountability and not meeting the expectations of others.

“BCD members share information about a Director’s role and responsibilities, as well as targeted professional development in key areas of business to ensure they are ‘Executive and Board ready’.  This is encouraging more women to apply and compete for leadership roles and Board positions, with successful results,” she said.

“Women don’t need quota systems, they need to build the confidence to promote and position themselves with key influencers and compete for positions which will increase the number of women within the talent pool from which companies can choose the best candidate.”

Behind Closed Doors offers targeted executive, managerial and entrepreneurial programs focussed on building women’s capabilities to be much more self-aware and resilient in a range of leadership techniques while at the same time building sustainable connections with broader networks.

Competitive Positioning – What’s yours?

You want to be a leader, a successful leader, easily able to effect outstanding business results.  Perhaps you already are but you want to rise further.

How can you stand out and make the right people take notice of you and your talents? It’s called competitive positioning and it applies to you and your career just as much as it does to company branding and development.

Take a look at the way people like Tony Robbins or Richard Branson operate and you will notice that they stand in a particular space in the market.  They have built their brands around that space and positioned themselves as experts within it.  You know not to go to Richard Branson for routine ideas; he’s an original thinker and a risk taker.  He has claimed that space and dominates it.

That’s what competitive positioning is all about for leaders; branding, message and being seen within the space you want to own.

Have you given much thought to your leadership role and to those who look up to you?

  • What kind of leader are you?
  • Are you recognised as a thought leader in your particular field or industry?
  • Do you add value in ways that your competitors can’t match?
  • Do you have skills or experience that is yet untapped but which is of great value?

These questions are particularly important for you to answer so that you can realise your true potential.  You need to focus on your key strengths and use them to your competitive advantage.  What can you do that your competitors – other leaders – don’t?  What can you do to ensure that you are seen as number one in your field?

Knowing your uniqueness will keep you ahead of impersonators and understanding your true value will allow you to present yourself authentically for the entire world to see.  It will also help you realise any internal blocks you may need to overcome.

You know, sometimes it is not so much talent or experience that sets you apart.  It’s your way of thinking and applying them.  Never underestimate the importance of your attitude and approach. It can be your best selling point.

Once you have managed to create a healthy competitive positioning, you need to ensure that this position is both managed and maintained.  Don’t cut corners.  Don’t underperform.  That will eat away at your positioning.

You want to be clearly branded with your reputation so that people know that they can call on you when they need to and expect to see quality results should they follow your advice.

Intelligent leaders should understand that competition, healthy competition, can create a wealth of opportunity, and that opportunities can be seized through clever positioning.

Ricky Nowak is a high energy and dynamic Certified Corporate Trainer, Workplace Assessor and Behind Closed Doors Facilitator whose 25 years of corporate experience makes training sessions come alive with real learning. She is passionate about developing authentic business leaders and inspires the participants to contribute comfortably as she connects and communicates naturally with them.


Five Ways Women Can Survive and Succeed in a Male-Dominated Workplace

Experts agree that all industries need a balance of men and women in the workplace because different viewpoints, ideas and market insights enable better problem solving, ultimately leading to superior performance. In addition, gender diversity provides easier access to resources, multiple sources of information and a wider industry knowledge and perspective.

It is no secret that the average workplace is mostly dominated by men, particularly in Executive roles. And despite continuous efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace, many females are still missing the opportunity to attain leadership roles and be successful in their chosen industry. So how can women survive and ultimately succeed in a male-dominated work environment?

Speak Up!

If you find that you are continually missing professional opportunities, then you should take the initiative and speak up. In an article on Forbes.com, Jane Fang stresses the importance of speaking up, stepping up and letting your boss know that you are ready, capable, and qualified to take on more responsibilities and that you are on par or even better than most of your male colleagues. According to Jane, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease.

Team Bonding

At times, career opportunities and information about new projects come from conversations outside the office, usually in an informal setting. You may not be keen on having Friday drinks but participating in work social activities will give you the perfect chance to get to know your male colleagues better, earn their trust, and often learn about new opportunities.

Have a Positive Attitude

Dr Collette Burke of SmartCompany.com, highlights the importance of having confidence in your skills and abilities. In her article, Dr Burke outlines that having self-confidence gives others the impression and assurance that you’re a capable person – one that can be a great contributor to your organisation. This will make your colleagues want to work with you and your manager trust you with bigger responsibilities. And if you aren’t confident with your abilities yet, Dr Burke recommends “faking it” until you develop a better outlook towards your own skills and capabilities; ie learn to value yourself.

Use Your Intuition

It has been said that women are gifted with better intuition, so use it to your advantage. According to Dr Burke, following your intuition is a powerful tool in problem solving, employee engagement, and decision making, especially in a male-dominated workplace.

Work with a Mentor and Be a Mentor

Having a mentor can do wonders for your career. Attend networking events and learn to engage in conversations with women and men more experienced than you – especially those in positions you plan to be in someday. Once you build meaningful relationships, you will have advocates who can help you move towards a more positive direction. You must also be willing to help your colleagues, regardless of their gender. Empower others and encourage them to take responsibility. This is a very effective way to develop strong relationships and build trust with your colleagues.

What has worked for you?  Do you invest time in connecting with colleagues and building relationships outside of your organisation?  If not, why not?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Donny