Updated: Jun 12
What percentage of your employees are women?
How many are in skilled or technical positions?
How many women are in positions of authority?
When was the last time your company asked those questions and made an effort to understand not only the numbers, but also the reasons behind them? Were the numbers equal throughout the entire workforce, or were the majority of the women in administrative, housekeeping, or other support positions?
The truth is that women are frequently not represented at higher level, skilled, or technical positions at the same rate as men. Women are disadvantaged from the very beginning of the hiring process. They are less likely to be hired for entry-level positions even though more women than men are earning bachelor’s degrees¹.
While many companies have begun to review and audit their hiring processes looking for gender bias, very few look for bias in performance reviews, thus compounding the disadvantages women face in the workplace. These biases result in occupational segregation and women holding fewer positions of responsibility which, in turn, exacerbates a wage gap between men and women.
Women also receive less support from management teams and have less access to the resources and contacts they need to succeed and advance their careers. This lack of support and access adds up and serves to further depress the advancement women’s careers. Unlike men, women have to work harder, be more vocal, and provide more evidence of their knowledge and competence to be taken seriously in their positions. And still they will have their judgment questioned in their area of expertise. Women are also twice as likely as men to be mistaken for someone in a more junior position.
Motherhood can also have a negative impact on a woman’s career. 41% of employees have children at home, and 17% of them do not benefit from the support of a partner in the house.¹ Women are far more likely than men to be single parents. Having to balance these family and career responsibilities can further disadvantage women by limiting their ability to participate in business and networking opportunities outside of normal work hours.
Sexual Harassment also plays a role in the inequality that women experience in the workplace. Ninety-eight percent of companies have clear policies prohibiting sexual harassment but in 2018 just 62% of employees said that they had received training or guidance that affirmed sexual harassment wouldn’t be tolerated. Worse yet, 40% percent of employees think a sexual-harassment claim would not be fairly investigated or addressed by their company².
So, how do you address these issues and create a more equitable workplace for women?
You start by asking questions. What percentage of your employees are women? What are their percentages by type of position? Does the percentage of women decrease at higher levels of skill or responsibility? Are women being paid at the same levels men are?
Now comes the hard part. Understanding why. Why aren’t women better represented throughout your company? Why aren’t they earning more? Why are their performance evaluations less likely to reflect outstanding ability? Why are they earning less?
Once you know where women truly stand in your company and the obstacles that they face, set goals for progress. Right now, fewer than ⅓ of companies set diversity targets for hiring and promotions¹. If you don’t set goals, how will you know when you have achieved gender equality?
To reach those goals you are going to need policies and training in place that ensure fair practices in hiring, mentoring, evaluation, and promotion processes. That means clearly outlining in policy the the guidelines and actions that must be followed at every stage. You will also need to train your management teams and employees to recognize and push back against bias in hiring and promotions.
The work doesn’t end there though. In order to Foster an Inclusive Culture and create an environment where women feel safe and respected, you are going to need to track your progress, monitor the implementation of policies and practices, and hold everyone accountable. For your gender equality initiatives to be effective though, your company must also have a clear reporting process and then swiftly address the biased and disrespectful behaviors that are brought to light.
Don’t forget, training can’t be a once and done thing. People are going to need refreshers. They will need to be reminded that gender equality is a priority and that the company is fully invested in making sure that biases behaviors are never allowed to flourish.
Thomas, R., Cooper, M., Ph.D, Konar, E., Ph.D, Rooney, M., Noble-Tolla,, M., Ph.D, Bohrer, A., . . . Robinson,, N., Ph.D. (2018, October). Women in the Workplace 2018 (Rep.). Retrieved November 14, 2018, from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company website: https://womenintheworkplace.com/
Krivkovich, A., Nadeau, M., Robinson, K., Robinson, N., Starikova, I., & Yee, L. (2018, October). Women in the Workplace 2018. Retrieved November 14, 2018, from https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2018