View more news
- 12 May
What do we mean by gender equality?
Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) describes gender equality within a workplace when people can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender. Further UNICEF says gender equality “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.”
Seems fair and reasonable? Most Australian companies would espouse this within their existing values. Unfortunately, there are some that see gender equality through a tainted lens, as pro female or anti male. When change is made appropriately its neither. Our experience within the workplace is that when gender equality is reached, the impact is good for everyone, females and males.
It is systemic issues that counter the view of gender equality being good for everyone. Michael Kimmel helps us through this in his captivating TED Talk on the subject, which is linked to this post. One of his key points is that privilege is invisible to those who have it. This privilege drives entitlement that leads to some of the resentment towards diversity within organisations.
This privilege applied to me. I am a white middle aged man who enjoyed a successful career in financial services and at no point in my work life did I experience any negative behaviour because of my gender, race and background. I’m one of the lucky ones. We need the empathy to step into the shoes of those that don’t, who experience poor behaviour and treatment daily. We need to remember our privilege and use it for the betterment of others and the organisations we work for.
Here’s an old riddle. If you haven’t read it, give yourself time to answer before reading past this paragraph: a father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” How can this be? (See below, Understand Your Bias)
What are the benefits of gender equality?
Two pieces of research we love show there is an overall benefit to business and society from gender equality:
- Credit Suisse’s 2016 analysis shows those companies with higher gender diversity delivered +11% higher shareholder returns and;
- McKinsey’s 2015 study tells us that by advancing women’s equality an extra $12 trillion can be added to global GDP
Additionally, as Kimmel points out in his TED Talk research shows more gender equal countries/companies have happier people. When men share care and household duties everyone is happier, healthier and a big one for mine, have more sex!
What can you do to promote gender equality in your workplace?
Understand the benefits to your business – Research shows that gender diverse business achieves higher shareholder returns, sales growth and return on equity. Research also shows these workplaces are happier and more innovative.
Understand your bias – Did you answer the riddle correctly? The research revealed that over 80% cannot explain the surgeon is the boy’s mother. This deeply ingrained bias exists everywhere in our workplace systems. Take some time to do some training to understand your own bias and the bias in the system. Your improved awareness will allow you to counter it.
Review your team’s remuneration – Is everyone regardless of gender or experience paid the same for completing the same value of work? Run the numbers and check diligently. Act immediately, with cost constraints it may take time to get this right. Persist and be transparent to the entire team on your actions.
Improve the recruitment process – Do you require equal number of female and male shortlisted candidates? Have you considered the interview process to remove bias and be more objective? How many of your last 10 hires have been women? Is the answer lower than 5?
Be flexible and supportive – We all lead busy lives and need to balance family, friends, hobbies, exercise or community involvement. There is no one way to manage it. Be open, caring and supportive of making it as easy as possible for your team to do their job. Throw away the ingrained attitudes or rule book and value getting the job done, regardless of how or where it’s done.
Invest in people via mentoring and sponsorship – Formal programs are shown to have an immediate and positive impact on gender equality.
Recruit others – For women join Chief Executive Women, Business Chicks, your own company female networks, participate in ‘Lean In’ circles or partner with your people leader. For men join HeForShe, MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), Male Champions of Change or sponsor two of the most talented females in your business unit.
At Balance Now this is what we do, every day for businesses everywhere.
If you would like our help please Contact Us.