Let’s start with the bad news. Despite relentless pressure from politicians, feminist activists, and business leaders, women in the workforce remain underrepresented. The 2017 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report finds that even though some progress has been made, women still do not play on an even playing field with their male colleagues. Shocking but true: the report reveals that the gender gap will most likely take approximately 217 years to close.
So with the pursuit of gender equality in the workforce currently set on ‘pause’, it’s time for businesses to try a few new ideas on for size:
1. Culture Club: The corporate world is trying, but more needs to be done. One proven way to promote equality is through workplace culture. A recent report revealed that even though ‘culture’ is chanted like a mantra in the business world, it truly does create a workplace environment that enables women to advance, and everyone to benefit. Furthermore, diversity of thought is a proven source of innovation, creativity, and competitive advantage. To build the business case for gender equality, company heads need to take a hands-on approach to identifying female professionals with leadership potential.
2. C-Level Women: It’s easy to become frustrated with the current state of women in the workforce. But let’s not forget that it’s not all gloom and doom. Studies show that wherever women become business leaders, more women work in that industry, which then leads to even more female leaders. This phenomenon presents one possible solution to the challenge of increasing the proportion of female leaders. If corporations are serious about bringing more women on board, all they have to do is promote women who already work for them into positions of leadership.
3. Commit Loudly: In many ways, we’ve come along way since fax machines were all the rage. But gender-based discrimination is still a stubborn reality. However, there are four specific commitments that a company should make in order to both promote equality and boost its bottom line. Equal pay for equal work; childcare options; flexible hours; and mentoring programs should be the loudly stated values and goals of every company that’s serious about chucking gender-related bias into the trash bin of history, somewhere between dial-up Internet and the pager.
4. Cut Out Double Standards: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said that women in the workplace often have to deal with something she calls a ‘likeability penalty’. This is a type of double standard where female leaders are expected to be nurturing and warm, while male leaders are allowed to be confident and self-assured. The second a woman in a position of power asserts herself, she is likely to be viewed as difficult, rude, or aggressive. In many cases, such biases are not deliberate or malicious. But they exist, and a key way for male colleagues to check themselves is to ask:Would I feel this way if a man did the same thing? Privately admitting one’s own bias is the best way to combat it and help create a more open, and supportive workplace.
Women’s Day? Every Day.
March 8th is International Women’s Day. Yes, this is a time to recognize and celebrate how far women have come in the last 100 years. But in the here and now, a more gender-inclusive workforce remains elusive.
It’s important to keep in mind that equality is more than a value worth aspiring to. Increasing female labour force participation is also important for economic growth.
We are part of a job market that has gone global. As a result, companies today must scramble to attract and keep top talent. Businesses that develop policies meant to encourage more flexible work environments, work-life balance and a diversity of backgrounds and views are more likely to boost female representation at all levels.