A Road Map to a More Level Playing Field

In an earlier post, I discussed pay disparity based on gender as well the way in which this problem is compounded by the troubling lack of women holding senior leadership roles with the authority to address the situation. Awareness of the disparity is just the beginning. Companies must take real, concrete steps to improve the professional lives of women and ensure their advancement while striving to close the gender pay gap.

Here is an outline of a helpful road map aimed at addressing these issues, as devised by the Women in the Workplace 2017 study conducted by LeanIn.org in partnership with McKinsey & Company:

    1. Make a compelling case for gender diversity: Company leaders and employees don’t always agree on whether or not their organizations are taking necessary steps to improve gender diversity. Nor do they see eye to eye on whether more gender diversity can produce positive business results. The authors of the study recommend that business leaders advocate that it does in order to get more employees on board. When diversity directives come from the top, everyone is more likely to get behind them.

 

  • Invest in more employee training: Decision-making is often affected by unconscious biases, yet many companies offer no training in what this is and how it can adversely affect women (as well as other minorities and underrepresented groups). Once employees are aware of how stereotyping can have a negative effect on things like hiring choices and performance evaluations, they will be empowered to make decisions that are fairer and more objective.
  • Give managers the means to drive change: It makes sense to ensure that the push to support diversity efforts lies with company managers who make day-to-day decisions for the organization and have extensive interactions with larger parts of the company workforce. All employees can benefit from managers being their advocates and setting up mentorship opportunities for them. Unfortunately, much still needs to be done to make sure that women have the same access to these benefits that men do.
  • Ensure that hiring, promotions, and reviews are fair: It’s vital that companies remember that the processes accompanying every step in the professional life of an employee be given the same scrutiny to root out bias. Whether it’s in recruiting, hiring, performance reviews, or promotions, every company should have measurable goals with regard to gender equality and diversity.
  • Give employees the flexibility to fit work into their lives: When companies have inflexible policies with regard to things such as employees working remotely or extended family leave, women suffer disproportionate professional setbacks. Also, notably, out of the companies that participated in this study, a significantly larger number of women in senior positions reported that they have partners who work full time than did men in comparable roles. Solutions that companies can adopt to improve work-life balance include: flexible schedules; telecommuting options; extended maternal and paternal leave; transition programs to assist workers heading into or returning from extended leave; and various child care benefits such as subsidies, on-site facilities, and emergency backup services.
  • Focus on accountability and results: Naturally, initiatives are more likely to succeed if there are measurable goals associated with them and if the results are shared with all of the stakeholders—which in this case should be everyone. By doing this, a business ensures that employees understand how essential gender equality is to the company culture. In addition, this empowers employees to hold their leaders to account.

 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but when all of us are more conscious of what needs to be done and can see a path forward, we are more likely to ensure measurable progress that benefits everyone.