The issue of gender equity is societal. As individuals or even organizations, facing such a massive issue is daunting – seemingly impossible. What we can do is look at our individual workplaces and lead by example. This post is going to focus on improving gender equity in the office.
We are mainly going to discuss gender equity in the office as it pertains to women, although gender itself is not binary. We must protect the rights of those who are different and don’t fit into a specific category.
Strategies to Improve Gender Equity in the Office
Before creating any new program for gender equity in the office, it is important to lay out a strategy
- Systemic thinking: Remember that gender inequality has been a systemic issue in our society for generations. You’re not going to fix these deeply embedded issues by placing individuals under pressure. Rather, you need to identify the leverage points in the system surrounding gender equity in the office. Once you have identified these points, use them to fix the situation.
- Mutual buy-in: Everyone in your office is a part of the system, therefore, everyone is going to need to work together to change the system. It is particularly important to get the support of senior management and board members. Without this, there is no real change or development. When there is a lack of buy-in from the top, it results in the ‘glass ceiling’ – limiting women’s promotion opportunities due to their sex.
- Work with managers: Give your managers the skills to identify and harness diverse talent.
- Including men: Gender equity in the office is not an exclusively feminine issue. Including men in the conversation is difficult, but important nonetheless.
Supporting Working Mothers
In homes with children, women are usually the primary caregiver. When surveyed, nearly 80% of US adults responded that women face pressure to be involved mothers. While less than 50% said the same about men.
The fact that we use the term ‘working mothers’ says it all. We don’t really refer to ‘working dads’. As it is assumed that a father works, it doesn’t have to be specified in speech. On the other hand, the term mother trends to infer that the woman is at home caring for her child and so, we use ‘working’ as a qualifier.
The Motherhood Penalty
Statistics show that working mothers earn an average of 3% less than childless women. This is aptly named ‘the motherhood penalty’. Interestingly, the opposite is true for men because fathers tended to earn 15% more than childless men.
The Motherhood Penalty in the Remote Office
Now that schools are closed, child care has become dramatically more demanding. Coupled with working from a home office, the results are stressful – to say the least. Holding a high powered Zoom meeting with a Toddler screaming and crying in the background is far less than ideal.
This situation disproportionally affects the ability of working mothers to perform – exacerbating the motherhood penalty. Just another contributor to the gender equality gap in the workforce.
True gender equality in the office must include remote workers and virtual employees.
In her book, Prof Collins of Washington University describes the importance of achieving work-family justice and thus gender equity in the office, for women. Her main argument is that working moms don’t need life hacks or performance tips. They need justice – it’s the only way for meaningful gender equity in the office.
While governments and policies are essential in achieving this justice, social changes need to be made at a grassroots level for any real change to happen.
Gender Equity in the Office by Supporting Mothers
Let’s look at how we can support working mothers and thus advance gender equity in the office.
Flexible Work Arrangements
While we have highlighted the pressures working remotely can have on mothers, it may be the answer for some. For work arrangements to be truly flexible, virtual employees should be allowed to choose what works for them on an individual level. The flexibility could be in terms of time and location. As experts in remote staffing, Noon Dalton does our best to support flexible work arrangements.
Parental Support Programs
To be effective, parental support programs should offer equal benefits to any parent, regardless of gender. This has two purposes. Firstly, it’s a social statement. It says that men and women have equal responsibilities when it comes to child-rearing. Secondly, any program that singles women out will ultimately land up being stigmatized. Normalization is the key to success.
Another strategy for normalizing working parents is by encouraging employees to display pictures of their families in their workplaces.
Let’s consider Deloitte’s parental support program as an example. They offer working parents additional work flexibility – in terms of both location and time – for the first three years after the arrival of a child.
Women in Leadership Positions
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways to improve gender equity in the office is to have women in key leadership roles. Again, changes to the leadership structure of your company should not be for show. To make a genuine impact, one token woman manager will not do. Note these key factors when creating your female leadership promotion program for internal and virtual employees:
- Equal training opportunities should be available to both men and women as well as the opportunities for advancement after training.
- Challenges: it is important that women in leadership are not treated as tokens but given challenging tasks.
- Develop mentorship programs: mentorship is key in bringing out potential leadership qualities in others. This also aids the mentee in developing their own personal network.
Noon Dalton is committed to promoting leadership diversity – take a glance at our team.
Identify Any Harassment
Gender-based violence stems from and gives rise to gender inequality. The work environment is no exception to this harsh reality. Statistics show that over 50% of women have experienced harassment in the workplace. Despite this, the same study shows that over 95% of perpetrators aren’t punished. Protecting women from both physical and emotional harm is essential to promoting gender equity in the office. Some key elements of an anti-harassment campaign are:
- Allow for anonymous complaints
- Ensure that each staff member has received anti-harassment training
- The perpetrator must be punished, even fired if they are found guilty.
- If the perpetrator is found guilty, your company should assist the accuser with filing criminal charges, if possible, as much as possible.
- If a complaint is made, try by all means to find out if there are any more victims.
While implementing an anti-harassment policy is essential to improving gender equity in the office, it is not the only step. As we have emphasized, gender inequality is a systemic issue – nothing is isolated.
The Pay Gap
Research shows that in the US women earn $0.79 for every $1.00 earned by men. The issue is not only that women are filling more junior positions as compared to men, but are actually being paid less for the same work. Gender equity in the office can only be achieved if everyone is paid fairly for the work. These are some essential steps in removing the pay gap:
- Allow employees to openly discuss their salaries.
- Ensure that each job title has a defined salary. Sometimes the salary may be defined as a bracket. In order to achieve gender equity in the office, there must be clear criteria for the sliding scale. The most common criterion is experience. For example, a candidate with 5 years of experience might be paid 10% more than a candidate with no experience.
- Ensure that promotions and bonuses are considered in an unbiased manner.
Gender equality is a complex social issue. In the wake of the global pandemic, returning to the office gives us a chance to address our institutional behaviours. Everything is changing right now, we might as well try to change it for the better.
- Gender is non-binary. Your plan to promote gender equity in the office must cater to those who do not fit into a category.
- Gender equity in the office needs to be addressed in a systematic manner.
- All players must buy-in to improve gender equity in the office. Encouraging upper management and men to join the conversation is important for overall success.
- The current global crisis has affected men and women differently. This is largely due to the social pressures of women to be involved mothers. This has exacerbated the ‘motherhood penalty’.
- Flexibility and parental support are key in addressing the motherhood penalty – and by extension gender equity in the office.
- The cycle of gender-based violence feeds into the issue of gender inequality. Ensuring the safety of all employees is a key part of promoting gender equity in the office. Implementing an anti-harassment policy is an important step here.
- Having women in key leadership positions and equalizing the pay gap are essential parts of promoting gender equity in the office.
Gender equality is a complex social issue. While individuals and organizations don’t have the power to enforce wide-scale change, we can brighten our own corners. Outlining a plan to promote gender equity in the office is essential to creating any change.