Society has, there is absolutely no question, shifted a great deal in the last 100 years. Even those of us who never consider the greater gender equality of today’s world would get a huge shock if we were suddenly transported a century back in time.
The rights to vote, access contraception, apply for the same jobs (with some notable exceptions), and get equal pay for equal work are among the undeniable strides that have been made toward placing women on an equal footing with men in the United States alone.
Does that mean that the fight for women’s rights and gender equality generally is over now? Far from it.
A recent Gallup poll shows that only 31 percent of American adults think true gender equality exists in the workplace today — and perhaps unsurprisingly. In comparison, 42 percent of men believe this to be the case, and only 21 percent of women do.
In politics — likewise a workplace for many, we tend to forget — the picture is far grimmer. Why should gender equality still be on your radar in the 21st century, and what can be done to achieve gender equality in the modern workplace?
What Is Gender Equality — and What Does Gender Equality in the Workplace Look Like?
The concept of gender equality has almost as many definitions as people are defining it, even though the term hasn’t been around for more than a few decades. Before the 1950s, “gender” itself was exclusively used to refer to gender in grammar, after all, and the more commonly-used term was also more narrow: women’s rights.
Let’s look at the way UNICEF, as a United Nations body, defines gender equality, then. To the UN, gender equality would be a societal state in which “women and men, girls and boys” enjoy equal (meaning the same) conditions, opportunities, and treatment.
A society practicing gender equality would be one in which people, and the roles they play, are valued equally, regardless of their gender — something that requires their different needs, as well as their similarities, to be taken into account.
An even more recent concept would be gender equity — rather than conditions being the same for everyone, no matter their biology, they would be fair.
The concept of equity can be depicted with the help of an image of three children who are each trying to watch a game of soccer. One is extremely small, and the wall that stands between that child and the game completely obstructs their view. The next child is just tall enough to peek over the edge, while the tallest can easily watch the game.
If three stepping stools were available, giving each of these children one would represent equality — but offering the shortest child two, the middle child one, and the tallest child no stool would be equitable.
Gender equality in the workplace would mean, among other things, employers embracing equal opportunities — the same pay for the same roles, the same career advancement opportunities, and also steps to ensure that the leadership roles in a company aren’t top-heavy with men.
Equity goes a step further, considering the different practical challenges male and female workers may face. An equitable workplace may shift policies to make working from home and working part-time possible, recognizing that women still take on the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities and offer generous maternity leave packages.
Meanwhile, the most progressive workplaces may make it clear that these same opportunities are also available to men, especially fathers, who can subsequently take a more active role in their children’s lives.
Together, all the progress businesses can make toward gender equality ultimately create a welcoming and productive working environment in which all employees can thrive, no matter their gender.
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Why Is Gender Equality Important in the Workplace?
What are the benefits of gender equality in the workplace — for workers and shareholders, customers, leaders, and profits? You may be surprised.
1. Working Toward Gender Equality in the Workplace Is Simply the Right Thing to Do
Gender equality is a matter of human rights, something the United Nations emphasizes whenever they get the chance. Women have historically enjoyed significantly fewer rights, and opportunities are no excuse to perpetuate outdated ideas and environments today.
From ambitious startups to established industry giants and charities to law enforcement agencies, every workplace leaves its own unique mark on the society we will all live in tomorrow.
What do you want your contribution to be? The choice to be socially responsible doesn’t have to stand in the way of making a profit and can do quite the opposite — so why not do the right thing?
2. Gender Equality in the Workplace Allows You to Hold onto Valued and Talented Employees
Dissatisfaction in the workplace — with underlying causes like low pay, unfulfilling work, a lack of growth opportunities, workplace harassment, and feeling undervalued — leads to greater staff turnover rates.
Why is gender equality in the workplace important? If you don’t want your most talented, skilled, qualified, and productive workers to seek greener pastures elsewhere only to have to invest in training brand new employees, the answer lies right in front of you.
Employees who feel valued, are offered career progression opportunities, and earn salaries that show how much they are appreciated will stick around to make your company grow.
Guess what? A workplace that implements policies intended to make sure women are valued and treated equally does not merely lead to greater job satisfaction among female workers, either! Indeed, 65 percent of employees indicated, in one survey, that they feel happier at work when all employees are treated with respect.
3. Gender Equality Boosts Productivity in the Workplace
The more valued employees feel, the more willing they’ll be to go the extra mile to help the company be successful. In even simpler terms, given the opportunity to contribute creatively in an environment that respects them and their needs, workers will do exactly that.
Employees who work in a supportive environment are more productive and productive to help the business thrive. That will only ever be good for the bottom line.
4. A Diverse Workforce Allows Customers to Relate to Your Business Better
The society your business operates in is incredibly diverse — made up not just of men and women, but also people of numerous different ethnic and religious backgrounds, ages, life experiences, and disabilities.
Regardless of the sector, it’s in a company that lacks a diverse workforce will suffer. That is true in customer service and other public-facing roles and top management and product development.
5. Greater Gender Equality Offers Companies a Reputation Boost
While segments of society that would prefer a return to “traditional values” certainly still linger, there is no question that history isn’t on their side. Overall, consumers and investors alike prefer to do business with companies that share their values.
When magazines or news outlets run features on the businesses with the highest levels of gender equality and the most equitable practices bring positive change, you’ll want yours to be on the list — to draw in more business as well as fresh talent.
On the other hand, you don’t want disgruntled ex-employees who faced gender-based discrimination in the workplace to vocally speak out about their experiences, causing your business to find itself on the less-positive side of news coverage, potentially causing boycotts, not just from consumers but also investors.
As consumers increasingly look for companies that align with their personal views, your reputation is everything. Your own employment practices could make or break your company.
6. A Workplace That Values Gender Equality Creates Better Products and More Efficient Marketing Campaigns
Does your company design products used by women? Do you create marketing campaigns for products that you’re hoping women will buy?
Unless your product is so extremely specialized, there are a low chance women will be buying it, even for a man in their lives — think creams for male pattern baldness — you have compelling reasons to ensure that you have plenty of women on your team.
Women still represent most consumers actively buying household and products may indeed be a leftover from a time that is now rapidly going out of style, but it is true nonetheless. Even if you make products exclusively gear toward men, women are likely to be purchasing them for the guys in their lives.
If your company designs, makes or sells products that you want women to use, women should be involved in the process.
Women should be well-represented within the marketing team if your company markets products or services you want women to buy. This is nothing but good business sense.
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The Bottom Line
When you boil all these ideas down to their essence, you no longer have a list but simply a set of core ideas. Why is gender equality important in the workplace? That depends on what perspective you’re tackling this question from.
Gender equality is important to male and female employees alike because an equal-opportunities work environment makes for a happier, healthier one. It’s important for shareholders and directors because it boosts productivity, creativity, reputation, and ultimately profits.
Gender equality in the workplace is crucial for society at large because it leads to the creation of products and services that better serve the needs of consumers. There is no longer reason to avoid examining ways to implement gender equality in the workplace in this day and age.
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How to Achieve Gender Equality in the Workplace
Once a company has recognized the benefits of gender equality in the workplace, the next question becomes more challenging — how to implement gender equality in the workplace? Companies that are actively pondering it, as opposed to assuming that their business is already an equal-opportunities workplace, are on the right track.
As you wonder how to achieve gender equality, businesses can:
- Actively ask their female employees how they believe the workplace could become a more equitable environment by asking for risk-free anonymous input.
- Analyze the men-to-women ratio in the company and take a serious look at the distribution of roles. Companies that employ mostly women but black female representation in the top management tiers have work to do.
- Look at the salaries they pay their male and female workers, offering women pay raises to correct inadvertent pay gaps.
- Ensure that both women and men are represented in every single department.
- Implementing hiring policies that ensure women join the team at all possible levels.
- Where relevant, examine outdated dress codes.
- Make it possible for employees to have flexible working hours and offer part-time employees the chance to take on bigger responsibilities. Look into job-sharing between two part-time employees.
- Carrying out blind performance reviews to eliminate unconscious bias from this process.
- Examining policies related to female-specific challenges such as maternity leave, sick leave for parents with sick children, and childcare arrangements (including onsite daycare centers). Then, taking the next leap by also making it possible for male employees to take paternity leave and take days off to care for children.
- Establishing a mentorship program with the explicit goal of allowing talented and ambitious women to become leaders within your company.
- Where relevant (and it may be, in more cases than you’d think at first sight), brainstorming ways to ensure your company better serves female customers, clients, and investors.
In implementing positive steps toward greater gender equality in the workplace, companies can use outside consultants and, increasingly, AI-based technology that analyzes inequalities.
However, how to implement gender equality in the workplace should begin by listening to existing employees. Given a chance, they will have a lot to share about ways to improve job satisfaction and opportunities for women — and make no mistake, setting out on that path is itself already a crucial step.
By creating an environment in which female employees can speak up about the steps that would help them thrive and are also actively empowered, your workforce will keep the ideas flooding in.