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.
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.
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.