There remains a lot to be done to combat gender inequality at work. In Singapore, 4 in 10 women encounter gender discrimination at work, while only a tenth of men report experiencing the same. Worryingly, only 12 per cent of those who experienced gender discrimination reported the incidents, while less than half of those who made reports felt that appropriate and satisfactory action was taken. Both figures reflect the lack of safety, support, and comfort that women feel in relation to their work environment.
It does not suffice to simply hire more women – although that is a good start! While we have listed below some steps that can be useful in efforts to overcome gender disparity in the workplace, it is important to note that the issue is a deeply complex and emotionally charged one; our suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tackling gender inequality.
Retool Organizational Mechanics
Show that your organization is serious about addressing gender-based inequalities in the workplace. According to this survey by McKinsey, only 38% of managerial positions are held by women, compared to 62% for men. Put effort and focus into hiring more females for senior-level positions and promote women within your organization who are qualified to higher ranks. To attract more women for these roles, consider giving employee benefits and opportunities that would greatly help women with other responsibilities that they might be juggling, such as better childcare access and flexible work schedules. It is crucial that companies take proactive steps to ensure gender diversity and integrate it into their organizational strategies, as it will have a huge impact on the productivity and financial stability of their organization.
Reshape Company Culture
To reduce gender disparity, the work environment that organizations create must be not only diverse, but inclusive as well. Companies should consider providing training and workshops on awareness of microaggressions. Microaggressions refer to supposedly small verbal and behavioural slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that reflect hostility or negativity towards a person’s gender or race, amongst other things. Sexual innuendos and sexist jokes fall into this category. According to McKinsey, women who are the only, or one of the only women in a team at work, report being on the receiving end of microaggressions 80% of the time. Encountering sexual harassment at work and having their intelligence and qualifications challenged are a leading cause of women leaving the workplace. Companies should firmly address this issue by providing a clear road to recourse and sanctions in the event of such untoward occurrences. After all, to truly benefit from the diverse experiences and backgrounds in the global workforce, organizations must encourage and empower their employees to speak up freely.
Rethink Personal Interactions & Behaviours
On an individual level, companies should encourage employees to reflect on whether their behaviour towards women in the workplace is appropriate. “People need something to lighten the mood” is an excuse often given for why sexual innuendos and sexist jokes make the airwaves at the workplace. Humour is a great way to lighten the mood, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the emotional and psychological health of a significant population of the workforce! Perhaps a question that we should ask at a deeper level is why we find such derogatory attempts at humour funny in the first place. Some soul-searching could do all of us in the workplace some good – especially us men.
A diverse and inclusive workplace is a strong base to grow employee engagement, creativity, innovation and overall performance. This goes a long way to retaining valuable talent and reducing rates of employee attrition, good outcomes for an organization that wants to flourish. The numbers don’t lie – if you work hard to foster diversity and inclusivity, your organization is bound to prosper!