Gender inequity is still prevalent in many workplaces. There are several workplace practices that contribute to that disparity, and if left unaddressed, workplaces will continue to fail in providing equal opportunities to women and men. Below are 3 effective ways organizations can begin to address some of the processes and organizational structures that lead to bias.
Equalize Pay – While the pay disparity between men and women has decreased over the last few decades, the reality is that women are still earning less than men. Since 2004, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor & Statistics has reported the earnings ratio of women’s earnings to men’s earnings between the 80 to 83 percent range, with the median hovering at women earning 83 percent of what men earn as of 2016. The percentage of earnings gap substantially increases when looking at Black and Hispanic women whose earnings ratio is an astounding 63 to 54 percent respectively, of white men’s earnings. Ensuring pay equity in the workplace isn’t as complicated as the pundits make it out be. It doesn’t take a national movement; what it takes is each organization acting responsibly and taking the affirmative steps of evaluating their current workplace pay practices to determine whether inequity exists and if so, putting a plan together to address it accordingly. Your Human Resources Department can be an avid business partner in assessing any differences in pay of the men and women within the organization to determine whether true disparity exists and they can in turn provide recommendations on how to right-set salaries where appropriate as well as how to establish pay practices that can mitigate future disparity.
Establish Flexible Workplace Policies – Women often disproportionately experience career interruptions which adversely affect their professional opportunities, raises and promotions. When you consider that 42 percent of all women are either the sole or primary breadwinner of the family while at the same time, women for the most part bear the majority of household duties and are often the primary caregivers for their children and aging parents; it’s no wonder that they encounter these challenges. Establishing flexible workplace policies that provide flexibility in when, where and how the work is to be performed would enable women to manage their responsibilities, without feeling the need to have to choose one over the other. Examples of flexible working options are variable start and finish times, working from home, the option to work compressed or fewer days or paid parental leave. Many women are forced to quit a job or seek part-time work elsewhere to meet their obligations of caring for a child or aging parents because they do not have alternative, more flexible options in their existing workplace. This lack of flexibility inevitably impacts the number of hours they can work and the types of jobs they can hold further contributing to the gap between men and women. Overcoming this barrier is key to women remaining in the workplace and progressing into leadership roles.
Create Male-Female Sponsorship Opportunities – For years, organizations have created women mentorship programs in response to the lack of advancement opportunities for women. However, most of those programs do not produce the intended result. Why? Because sponsorship, better positions women for advancement in the workplace. While mentors can provide women with career “advice”, the power behind sponsorship is that sponsors have the influence or ability beyond mere advise and can actually “position” and/or “advocate” for these same women to obtain the visibility and promotional opportunities they seek. If more organizations focused on creating opportunities for women to connect with and be exposed to the senior leaders of their organization, they would have more of an opportunity to gain sponsorship. It does not require much formality, in fact, the less formal, the more likely efforts will be successful. One suggestion would be to coordinate frequent but intimate organized events, meetings or outings in which the senior leaders and high-potential women have an opportunity to t and get to know each other or even go a bit more focused and have them work together on small projects such as charitable work on behalf of the organization. Before you know it, relationships are established, and these high-potential women will soon have influential advocates on their path to promotional opportunities within their organization.
These are but a few steps that can be taken in addressing gender bias workplace issues. The reality is that gender bias exists, and once leaders prioritize taking affirmative steps to eradicate its existence we will get closer to true gender equality in the workplace.