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Addressing gender equality in your workplace

Education is one of the most effective tools in addressing gender equality. Here's what you need to know.
John Sherman

One of the greatest problems in addressing gender equality issues in the workplace is recognizing that they even exist at all. A lot of gender equality issues in the workplace can be quite subtle, making them easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. What might appear to be a little fun between colleagues, for example, could actually be quite distressing for somebody that is involved. What’s more is that somebody who is a victim of gender inequality in the workplace may not feel as though they are able to speak out. Many others are not aware of the procedures are should they wish to make a complaint.

Education is one of the most effective tools in addressing gender equality, and this can mean training your whole workforce. While management should clearly be well trained in identifying examples of gender inequality among the workforce, the responsibility can lie with everybody. If you don’t take necessary steps to clamp down on inequality in the workplace, especially instances of sexual harassment, then you could potentially be facing serious consequences.

Make it Known That Inequality is Not Tolerated

One way to help tackle gender inequality can be to make it clearly known to the whole workforce that it will not be tolerated. If necessary, you can offer regular reminders of your company’s stance on gender inequality by including it in newsletters or maybe in the occasional team meeting. Posters and signs will also help to make regular reminders to everybody that gender inequality will not be tolerated. As already mentioned, education will play a large part in this and training sessions should be held whenever possible. It is possible that if a policy on non-tolerance on inequality is not pressed home regularly then a culture of inequality could begin to develop, even if not intended.

The procedures for tackling gender inequality should also be made clear for everybody to understand. It should be made absolutely clear whom to approach when making a claim, and that making a complaint will not have any adverse effect on the career prospects of the person making the complaint. Too often, cases go unchecked because the victim is unsure of what to do, or is concerned that their position within the company may be adversely affected if they do make a complaint.

Look Out for Pay Gaps

If one gender in your organization is being paid significantly more than the other, then this could be an indicator of inequality. A difference in wages alone does not confirm that there is an issue with inequality as there are other factors to be taken into consideration, although a significant gap could be worthy of investigation.

If something doesn’t add up, then you may need to address the recruitment process along with an investigation into other practices in the workplace. It could be that the environment within the workplace does not encourage women to try and progress. It may also be that one gender is being favored over the other, and this could be happening subconsciously.

Avoid Stereotyping

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly half (47%) of the US workforce is made up of women. Despite this, some sectors, such as Tech and IT, are still very much male-dominated. This is despite the fact that women can be, and often are, just as able to perform well in the industry as men are.

It also works both ways as men can be overlooked for positions that are traditionally female dominated such as secretarial roles. This can lead to better-qualified candidates being overlooked for reasons that have not relation to their ability to do the job.

One way that can help to avoid this can be to remove names from application forms along with anything else that may reveal an applicant’s gender. In doing so, those reviewing the applications will be doing so based on nothing but the applicant’s ability to do the job. Make sure that the interview process is also fair and focuses only on the candidates’ qualifications and ability to do the job at hand.

Avoid Social Exclusion

Friendships are often struck up in the workplace and people will often choose to socialize with colleagues outside of working hours. Even though an individual may genuinely try to be impartial when it comes to making decisions in the workplace, it can be very difficult for them to select an individual they don’t know personally over one that they do. Meeting socially can also help to reveal characteristics that might favor a person when it comes to applying for jobs that might otherwise go unnoticed. This will give an applicant an unfair advantage when applying for a job in which somebody they know personally will be part of the recruitment team.

While it would be wrong to tell your workforce who they can and cannot socialize with outside of working hours, you could still encourage all members of the workforce to get involved to some degree. Team-building exercises and other social functions to which the whole team is invited can help to encourage everybody to make more personal connections, helping to address the balance of social exclusion.

Create the Right Balance Between Life and Work

If there is a culture of working long shifts within your organization then this is something that could be helping to contribute to inequality in the workplace. Many people have demanding family commitments that mean unsociable working hours just are not feasible for them. Such a working environment means that many people are not able to take advantage of the same opportunities as those with fewer commitments away from work, and this can help contribute to an issue with inequality.

Once you are able to identify issues they may be leading to inequality issues in the first place then you can begin to focus on how to fix them. Make sure that your staff receives adequate training on inequality issues and you are taking a step closer to a fair and productive working environment.

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