A major discussion today is how gender equality in the workplace is a critical factor for achieving business results and curating executive growth and strong leadership. But just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, equality won’t be achieved in a discussion.
The spotlight on workplace equality, especially with regard to gender, is at an all-time high. But it’s time that all individuals accept and understand their responsibility for turning the conversation into action. Despite a greater focus than ever on equal pay, treatment, and representation of women, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and Institute for Women’s Policy Research show that a staggering 19.5% wage gap remained in 2017.
Organizations must lead the way in initiating and expediting change that empowers industries and individuals to do their part to level the playing field—and not just at the top. While it’s true that women account for an average of only one in five C-suite positions, the largest gender gap lies at the first major promotion point from entry-level to manager level, where women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts, according to McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace study.
Advancing gender equality in your organization
An organization can easily begin educating its members to inspire a new set of values that support an equality culture. From the highest level, this education starts with a few simple mindset shifts:
Build coaching moments into the everyday. When building new values and cultural ideals, organizations that focus on small coachable moments can demonstrate their values on both a corporate and personal level. With matters of equality, and for women especially, there are typically several critical moments of the workday that can potentially give way to bias, stereotyping, or discrimination, sometimes even on an unconscious level. While these moments of impact take many forms, the following coaching moments should be a top priority:
- Labeling biases. Ensure that characteristics, personalities, and communication styles are not stigmatized for one gender while celebrated for the other.
- Language empowerment. Provide resources and education on how to communicate most effectively with others and avoid biased beliefs that certain individuals should communicate in certain ways.
- Nonverbal communication. Open a discussion around behaviors such as stance and eye contact that provide men and women with an understanding of how to communicate in an open, equal, and collaborative manner.
- Compliance. Ensure the workplace is not tolerant of belittling or controlling communication, including instances of “manterruption” or “mansplaining” where a man talks down to a woman, speaks over her, overexplains ideas, and so on.
Encourage a focus on perspectives, not penalties. It’s important for various employee backgrounds, demographics, and experiences to be considered positive elements of a company’s composition. Individuals should be encouraged to carve their own path personally and professionally, and doing so should be seen as an all-around benefit to the organization’s success, rather than a distraction.
For women, unfortunately, a negative stigma is often associated with having a family, despite McKinsey &
Company’s 2017 data showing women are not leaving or planning to leave the workforce any more than men are. Ensuring an organization’s culture is free from this “mom penalty” supports women in growing their career path when and how they desire, without the threat of experiencing team bias or being passed over for a promotion opportunity.
Create a transparent organization. For a culture to be conducive of equality, there must be a degree of transparency at the corporate level and among employees. It is paramount that an organization acknowledge any gender gaps it may have and share in the ownership of how those gaps will be addressed. In addition to offering coaching moments and addressing stigmas, companies can demonstrate a culture of equality by making employees aware of the resources that are available and welcoming all conversations on the matter, without the risk of consequence.
When a culture of equality is achieved, all individuals understand their importance in contributing to a higher-functioning team where talent development and business success can be driven to new heights.