Despite some strides forward, gender inequality in the workplace remains a major problem throughout the world. Although laws are supposed to promote equality and prevent discrimination, to achieve true gender equality in the workplace, it’s necessary for employers to take an active role.
What Do We Mean By Gender Equality?
Before going any further, it’s important to define gender equality.
Gender equality means employees are treated equally, regardless of their gender. They receive the same salary for comparable roles, they have equal opportunities to progress in their careers, and they don’t face gender-based discrimination. Gender equality includes protections for transgender employees, those who identify as non-binary, and those who are undergoing gender reassignment.
Examples of Gender Inequality
Before looking at how we can ensure better gender equality in business, let’s examine some examples of gender inequality.
Gender Pay Gap
The most recent numbers in the U.S. show that a woman working full time makes, on average, 81.6 cents for every dollar a man working full time makes.
Discriminatory Hiring Practices
Stereotypes class some roles as being just for women and others just for men. Hiring managers may also discriminate against gender non-binary or transgender candidates.
Childcare and Pregnancy
Working women are more likely to be responsible for childcare than men. For instance, 54 percent of women take time off work when they become a parent compared to 42 percent of men. They also take 10 times as much temporary leave on average. Women may face setbacks and discrimination for their childcare commitments.
Pregnant women may also receive unfair treatment even before they take maternity leave. This can include being passed over for promotions, verbal abuse, and job duties that change without warning.
Both women and men can experience sexual harassment in the workplace. This is extra common in male-dominated industries.
When employees speak out against unfair practices in the workplace, such as gender discrimination or harassment, they may find that they’re terminated. Other times, employees may feel they need to leave the company because management is taking no action to stop inappropriate behaviors.
Tips for Achieving Gender Equality in Your Workplace
Employers of all types can take action to reduce gender inequality in the workplace — it doesn’t matter how small your business is. As you’ll see from these tips, gender equality is actually good for business.
1. Change Your Hiring Practices
If your workforce is primarily made up of one gender, examine your hiring practices to see what you can do to attract a more diverse selection of candidates.
Start by looking at your job posts. Do they use language that implies you’re looking for a particular gender? You may need to change the job title or remove any mentions of “he” or “she” — use “you” instead.
Next, address what questions you’re asking in the interview. You should never ask about candidates’ families, whether candidates intend to have children, or about caring commitments. If a candidate volunteers such information, steer the conversation in another direction. For more ideas about how to improve your interview questions, seek feedback from a diverse range of your team members.
Lastly, consider where you’re advertising jobs. If you find that the platform or hiring agency you’re using tends to attract a particular gender, think about how you could change your advertising practices to reach a wider range of candidates.
2. Treat Employees Equally, But Not the Same
Some major confusion around gender equality comes from not understanding the difference between “equal” and “same.” Treating your employees equally does not mean treating them the same. Rather, it means ensuring that you take their individual needs into account.
This could mean, for instance, offering greater flexibility of working hours for employees who need it. If the job allows, you could give employees the chance to choose what time they start and finish working or when they take breaks (especially if they’re working remotely). Provided employees are working a required number of hours and are present for key meetings, this may not be a problem.
As another example, if your employees are working shifts, some may need a more regular schedule than others. For instance, parents may need to work the same days each week or need to know their hours further in advance.
Not all your employees will need the same concessions. The point is to treat everyone fairly by considering their unique situations. This will make the workplace as welcoming and comfortable as possible for everyone.
3. Improve Mentoring
Some business owners argue that they have more men in leadership positions because none of the women at their companies are qualified for these positions. If this is the case at your company, consider whether this is because you are failing to prepare women at your company for senior positions.
Such situations are particularly common when there is a mentality that men are more suited for leadership roles, meaning women are passed over for mentorship. You can address the issue by offering more mentoring to your employees, regardless of gender.
However, don’t just match women with female mentors and men with male mentors. There’s no need for this, and it puts extra pressure on women who are already in leadership, especially if men far outnumber them. Instead, choose who you pair together according to what would be most beneficial for the individuals.
In addition, consider if your requirements for obtaining a high-level position are realistic for women. You may realize you are turning down women because of factors like breaks in employment due to maternity leave.
4. Be Open About Salaries
The culture of being secretive about salaries has only allowed the gender wage gap to remain relatively unchecked. When coworkers share information about their salaries, it is much more difficult for employers to justify gender discrepancies.
Be open about the salary range for new employees — rather than asking candidates what they received at their previous job. If you rely on previous salaries, you allow the gender pay gap to persist. In contrast, having pay brackets for different roles at your company improves transparency and ensures new employees always receive fair pay.
In addition, you should promote an openness around salaries for current employees. You can even go so far as to advertise how much each position pays. Whereas this doesn’t solve the gender pay gap problem completely (there are many other factors that contribute), it does have a positive impact. For instance, employees will know how much they should receive with a promotion.
5. Conduct Exit Interviews
When an employee does leave your company, find out why. Conduct exit interviews to give employees the chance to discuss any problems they encountered. This may reveal gender inequality issues that never otherwise would have come to your attention.
6. Promote Parental Leave
All employees are concerned that taking parental leave will impact their careers in the long term. A family-friendly workplace is much more attractive to candidates who are already parents or who intend to become parents.
Creating family-friendly policies is obviously beneficial for women and can even prevent them from leaving a company. Furthermore, fathers who receive parental leave become more involved in childcare, which takes some of the pressure off working mothers and reduces gender disparities in the workplace that much further.
7. Take Harassment Seriously
Despite all the media attention over the past few years, sexual harassment in the workplace is often still passed off as normal and unavoidable. If you are serious about creating an ethical business, you need to take reports of harassment seriously. This means disciplining the perpetrators appropriately — no matter who they are. You should also provide training to employees at all levels, including training for management on how to manage accusations.
Even small incidents of harassment require your full attention. That a comment was meant innocently or was interpreted incorrectly is no defense. If you allow such incidents to continue, the problem will only escalate, creating a workplace culture where harassment is acceptable.
Gender Equality at MYVA360
At MYVA360, we are committed to achieving gender equality. We’ve worked hard to ensure we have a diverse team of virtual assistants and we offer all our VAs equal opportunities to progress with their careers.
We also make sure our clients are unable to discriminate against our virtual assistants. For one thing, we choose the VAs for our clients — we always provide them with the VA who is best suited to their needs. This means there’s no chance for unconscious bias to influence clients’ decisions about who to contract. Plus, we never allow clients to request a particular gender.
Try out our service for yourself. Contact us to receive the ideal virtual assistant for your needs.