According to the Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 35.6 years for North America to achieve gender equality. That’s an increase of 36 years from the previous report, thanks to COVID-19.
Even though women made significant gains during the pandemic, according to McKinsey and LeanIn.org, they’re still not being promoted to leadership positions at the same rate as men. This makes it increasingly harder for women to reach executive levels. The women that do, are rarely women of color, who account for only 4 percent, a number that has been stagnant for the last three years. McKinsey also revealed that four in ten women have thought about leaving their current job because they’re burned out.
As companies are already dealing with a massive talent shortage, they simply cannot afford to lose highly experienced women. Leaders must understand not only why diversity and inclusivity are so important, but how they can leverage the benefits of gender equality in the workplace to improve company culture, and ultimately, their bottom line.
Why is it important?
Promoting gender equality in the workplace is important because it helps reduce biases that compel women to change jobs or exit the workforce altogether. It also levels the playing field. Currently, for every 100 men promoted to a managerial role, only 86 women are promoted. This deficit leads to the “broken rung” dilemma. Management roles are the first step towards senior leadership, so how are women expected to climb to the C-suite if they can’t step onto the corporate ladder in the first place?
Longstanding biases are the biggest impediment to female advancement in the workplace. Sexism and misogyny have been deeply ingrained in corporate culture for decades, even centuries. Outdated myths that women don’t pursue higher positions because they have too many responsibilities at home, or that they lack the confidence and aggressiveness needed to “play with the big boys” continue to keep women stuck in low-level jobs. These stereotypes tend to be further reinforced in the hiring, review, and promotion processes. For example, mothers of very young children face a lot more scrutiny and are viewed as “not as dependable” as men who have kids of the same age.
When women do advance at work, they experience more stress than men in the exact same positions. The McKinsey report went on to say that “women are much more likely than men to have their competence questioned and their authority undermined, and women of color are especially likely to face disrespectful and ‘othering’ behavior.” Things get even more complicated when the woman is the only female on the management team, as she will be more heavily criticized, have a larger overall workload, and have to deal with higher levels of burnout than her male counterparts.
The benefits of gender equality in the workplace
Society shares equally in the benefits of diversity. Employees, the companies they work for, and even the countries in which they’re located thrive when equality and diversity are promoted and celebrated.
Employees benefit from diversity in the workplace through a feeling of camaraderie, inclusiveness, and support. When staff feels that equality is valued and supported by their managers, they are less likely to get burned out and seek employment elsewhere. This is especially true for women, and even more so for women of color, who unfortunately have to deal with disrespect, social insensitivity, and other types of microaggressions on a regular basis. When you’re not the only person that looks like you in a management meeting, it’s much easier to feel at ease and be more productive.
Organizations looking to increase their bottom line can start by increasing diversity throughout their ranks. Making gender equality a priority leads to more success, as leaders who do so tend to make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. These better decisions lead to higher overall profits. In fact, Deloitte found that businesses practicing inclusive hiring, promotion, and development generate up to 30% higher revenue per employee as well as greater profits than their non-equity-focused competitors.
Even countries themselves benefit from equity in the workplace. In fact, closing the gender gap could add between $12 and $28 trillion to the global GDP, according to McKinsey’s Global Institute Report. Although most companies have heard these statistics and posture themselves as “diversity and equity-focused,” they’re not actually putting their corporate money where their corporate mouthpieces are speaking, and they’re losing their workforce as a result.
What you can do
In order to attract the best talent and prevent costly turnover, companies need to act, and they need to act now. To use one of our favorite poker terms, it’s time for corporate America to go “all-in” on equality and diversity.
1. Incorporate inclusivity into the company’s business model.
The key to improving company culture through inclusivity is to make it part of the overall mission and day-to-day operations, ensuring everyone is involved in the process. This benefits not just the employees, but also the company as a whole, as consumers now expect higher standards from the brands they do business with. Smart companies are already paying attention.
“We made a very deliberate decision to build things like equality and inclusion into the business model,” Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble said in a 2019 Forbes interview. “What consumers are now expecting is brands to do good for the world as well and to go beyond just providing a superior product. They want to know what your values are. Is it a diverse group of people behind this brand? Are you promoting equality of all types…are you walking the talk both with your own company and who you work with?”
Inclusivity should be weaved into everything that touches employees, including recruiting, training and education, mentoring, performance evaluations, pay raises, benefits, and even flexible work arrangements. Poker Power is a great way to empower female agency when broaching these tough subjects.
2. Teach everyone in the company to spot inequalities and biases.
Teaching everyone in the organization how to recognize inequalities and biases in the workplace is critical to improving the corporate culture. Women and people of color experience biases through interactions with their colleagues on a daily basis. In order to truly enact change, all employees need to be involved in recognizing these biases and calling them out.
For example, are team building sessions and “happy hours” scheduled at convenient times for everyone, including parents of small children? Are deals done primarily on the golf course or in ultra-masculine environments that would make women uncomfortable? There are many different scenarios such as these that have become so common in the workplace that people tend to just accept them. That’s where the change has to start.
It is imperative that employees are rewarded and not punished for speaking up. Companies must create a safe environment in which staff can bring examples of inequity and biases to their managers or HR without fear of losing their jobs or not being promoted.
Educating executives, managers, and staff about inclusivity and equity through corporate training and regular reinforcement initiatives is key. This education should begin with orientation when an employee is hired and continue until the time they leave. Any exit interview should have a survey that asks the employee how they think the company handled equality in the workplace. Have you ever thought about bringing poker into your office as a way to reinforce community, team building, and strategy? What’s more inclusive than a table where women are always welcome?
3. Make equal representation and equal pay a top priority.
Of course, the easiest way to improve company culture through inclusivity is to provide equal pay that is based on a person’s job responsibilities and not their gender, race, age, or sexual orientation.
The bottom line is that corporate America must take action now to learn how to improve gender equality in the workplace, and it all starts with you. Whether you’re an executive, a manager, or just starting an entry-level position, you can help make gender equality in the workplace a reality. Maybe even in this lifetime.
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