Ready to move beyond pointing fingers to find effective solutions to promote gender equality in your organization? Here’s how!
The conversation about women in the workplace has intensified and with it the need to find solutions to promote gender equality in the workplace.
The #MeToo movement brought to light a slew of stories that hadn’t been told. Or that hadn’t been heard, rather. It opened a can of worms but it also opened a dialogue that had been off limits for a long time. Granted, a lot of pain and discomfort results from these conversations but the search for real solutions to promote gender equality has started in earnest. Not that it wasn’t something many organizations hadn’t been working towards for many years. Yet this time a larger number of companies seem to have realized it’s critical to their survival.
How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace
Most organizations are doing their best to level the playing field for everyone. Yet they still face unsatisfactory ratings from their associates. Or female talent that gets stuck in middle management. Or a large percentage of women who leave the company at faster rates than their male counterparts. What to do when it seems like you tried everything and have little to show for your efforts?
3 Solutions to Foster Gender Equality
1Ask the right questions
Don’t assume you know the answers to what the problem is. Or that you read some research and that’s exactly what’s happening in your workplace. And don’t just send out a survey. After having responded to many of them, most people are frustrated with the lack of action taken as a result of the findings.
Seek to understand from one-on-one meetings and small groups. Conduct comprehensive exit interviews with women and find out why they are leaving. Now, making sure you ask the right questions is key to identifying the real problem. When in doubt, consult with a few trusted female associates.
2Design to promote inclusion
If you’re truly interested in solutions to promote gender equality, in other words, in fostering inclusion, you can design for it.
- From the way in which you conduct your hiring to the words you use in your job postings. You could scan your postings for wording that tends to attract one sex over the other and adjust accordingly. Adjectives like “highly competitive” and “ambitious” tend to attract men. Others such as “empathetic” or “community oriented” tend to attract women.
- From the approach you use to give performance feedback to female employees to how you define cultural fit. Research shows that supervisors of both sexes tend to give personality-driven feedback to women and performance-driven feedback to men.
- From how you talk about statistics to how you talk about leaders. When you constantly emphasize the small number of women CEOs you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Women perceive it’s not a job for them and men confirm their unconscious biases that this is a role for their gender mates.
Every aspect of your organization can be evaluated for unconscious biases and solutions can be designed to override any biases.
3Offer your female talent the resources to reach equality
Although reaching equality should not be the “job” of any woman but a given in the workplace, part of it still falls on women’s lap.
Given women’s upbringings and the social norms we adhere to, most of us are conditioned to behave in a certain way. When you add the expectations of different cultures you have a collection of behaviors that may get in the way of success.
For example, Chinese women are raised to revere seniority and keep their distance but in Corporate America they are expected to approach senior executives at events in order to develop strong networks.
One of the best ways to resolve this is by providing women with the right tools to negotiate, navigate politics and power dynamics. To help them build resilience and confidence in order to break away from social and cultural norms that may keep them from reaching their full potential. And helping female talent feel like they belong in your company and that they can reach executive levels, is one of the best solutions to promote gender equality.
Of course, different sized companies will need different solutions. Let’s start tailoring them to the smallest organizations.
How to Promote Gender Equality in Small Organizationes
If you’re serious about finding solutions to promote gender equality the first item to consider is the size of your company. Smaller organizations may find it easier to establish simple measures to reach gender equality.
Here are a few solutions that will help you level the playing field
- Set up a specific salary range per band or position and make sure everyone within the band/role gets paid equally.
- Design a questionnaire for each job application and make sure you ask every applicant the exact same questions in the exact same order. Assign a point range per question, for example 1-5. Then have a third person add up the points for each candidate and pick the one with the most points for the position. If it’s a tie, you may want to select the person who would best balance your current gender distribution at the level you are hiring.
- Switch around the time and day of the week of your networking events so everyone can attend. This way, women who may be responsible for their family after hours, can also attend and benefit from strategic networking.
If you feel you need a more comprehensive solution, take a look a the RSM Programs.
Solutions to Promote Gender Equality in Medium to Large Companies
Now if you work for a larger employer, thesesolutions are intrinsically more complicated. Years of unchecked unconscious biases, long-established procedures, unwritten rules, and favoritism make it tougher to find effective strategies. When you add women’s general reluctance to rock the boat plus the double bind they face if they do, you have yourself a complex situation.
This collision of circumstances is what the Red Shoe Movement can help you resolve. Our diversity and inclusion solutions will strengthen women’s self agency and sense of belonging to your organization. Read more about our solutions here.
We find (and research supports it) that effective solutions to promote gender equality are never one-offs. They are never made up of one program or one initiative. They are part of a strategy that impacts your entire organization over time.
They come after a good assessment of where you stand in terms of gender inclusion and they involve the commitment of leaders at all levels. You can’t expect things to change by only offering leadership development for your female talent. Just as you can’t expect results by only focusing on discussing the problems and never acting on them.
Only when you look at your organization as a whole, layout a coherent strategy to work with all the stakeholders and persist, will the solutions to foster gender inclusion bear positive results.