Creating an Equitable Workplace for Women

Historically, women in leadership roles in the workplace has been unevenly represented when compared to their male counterparts.  As such the issue of pay equity continues to perpetuate, not just based on the gender pay gap but because of the disproportionate number of high compensation level roles being filled by men.  According to a report by Payscale, in 2019 women earned just $0.79 for every dollar a man makes.  The report continues to say this is a “raw” gender pay gap looking at the median salary regardless of job type or worker seniority.

Women’s representation in the boardroom has become such a concern that California mandated a law in 2018 (Senate Bill 826) that by the end of 2019, every public company with their executive base in California must have at least one woman on their board, with those numbers increasing into 2021 depending on the size of the board.

The somewhat good news is that change is being made.  The not so good news is that change takes time, and lots of it.  McKinsey & Co. along with LeanIn.org have been tracking the progress on an annual basis through extensive research benchmarking the strides being made.  The overarching results of their findings is that although women are starting to become more present at senior levels, companies need to focus their efforts earlier in the pipeline to make real progress at every level (vs. simply creating a band-aid effect to an overwhelming problem).

So how do women persevere in the face of this widespread adversity?

The operative word is perseverance.  But perseverance can only be achieved through support from all gender counterparts and of course, through corporate culture.  Below are some strategies to help create equality for women in the workplace.  Some of these may seem simple, some of these may seem complex, but in either scenario small steps lead to big changes.

Address Unconscious Bias – The very explanation of the term suggests that people are not aware of their bias.  Measures should be implemented to bring the unintentional to the forefront, to build awareness.  Establish criteria and train leaders to understand how to overcome this critical step. Here’s a link to Google’s Bias Busting @Work presentation to get you started.

Evaluate Your Data & Take Action – Take a deep dive into your org chart and compensation by gender.  Determine any disparities and if/when you find them create an action plan to address the issues you identify.  Remember this is a work in progress and not a one-time fix.  Companies evolve and gender gaps do too.  Whether through a merger, acquisition or some other business transaction what once was fixed may become broken again and will need fixing again.

Define Criteria & Create Clarity for Employees to Be Promoted – This process should start early on during an employee’s tenure.  Coordinate with managers and leadership to develop training and project benchmarks to help nurture leadership skills.  As with anything communicate your process to employees so you the company and its people are aligned with growth opportunities.  By identifying and supporting employees who show an interest in growth you will increase retention and produce leaders who represent diversity.

Offer Benefits that Are Inclusive – Paid family leave has become a requirement in today’s workforce, however, extend your benefits beyond what is required to create a comfortable and positive workplace experience.  Some benefits to think about include child/eldercare (even if you don’t have the budget to subsidize, just making resources available is extremely helpful), flexible work policies, lactation spaces and milk delivery services for recent mothers, foster a culture of work/life balance and respect.

Educate Leaders & Employees – Inclusion is about making sure everyone is heard.  Although this post speaks specifically about female equality, inclusion is about EVERYONE.  When appropriate all opinions are important and should be valued. Provide workers with a safe space to voice their concerns.  Lifelabs Learning offers a plethora of training options for your team to learn to be more inclusive.  Bravely provides an external and safe source for employees to voice concerns.  Benchmark employee experience both before/after training is provided to hold the entire team accountable for what they learn.  Communicate your education and diversity goals and continue to measure progress.

Celebrate Gender Equity Success – Recognition in the workplace is important for all employees but be sure to celebrate women’s achievements to reinforce gender equality.

To make change sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen.  But without action nothing will happen.  Whether the first, or four-hundredth step to creating an equitable workplace, keep moving forward and progress will come.
International Women’s Day is March 8, 2020.  #IWD2020 #EachforEqual   The event was founded with the focus to create an equal world, raise awareness against bias, take action for equality and celebrate women’s achievements.  To learn more visit their website here.

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