Gender Equality in the Workforce

How to do your bit for gender equality in the workplace  Every year, around International Women’s Day (March 8), the same old conversations bubble to the surface – in HR departments, around the watercooler, between workers themselves. How do we improve gender equality? Get more women into leadership roles? Create workplaces that are fair and…

How to do your bit for gender equality in the workplace 

Every year, around International Women’s Day (March 8), the same old conversations bubble to the surface – in HR departments, around the watercooler, between workers themselves. How do we improve gender equality? Get more women into leadership roles? Create workplaces that are fair and respectful for everyone? And why does it all matter, anyway? 

These are all big questions and according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, there are no easy answers. In fact, the Report claims that gender parity won’t be achieved for 99.5 years – so probably not in our lifetimes. 

That doesn’t mean we stop trying. If anything, it means we need to try harder – to make workplaces of all kinds more welcoming for women, to bring in more inclusive policies if you’re in a position to do so, to foster campaigns to close the leadership gap. (On that note, while women make up half the world’s population, they’ll only make up half of the world’s leaders in 2124 – and won’t have equal representation in parliament globally until 2065. Gulp.) 

What you can do as an employer 

Do you talk the talk and walk the walk? It’s a key question because while many companies are on board with the concept of gender equality and gender parity, it can take time and effort to put it into practice. 

We know that gender equality prevents violence against women and children and societies that value it are, on the whole, safer and healthier. Valuing men and women as equal is also good for the economy, and for businesses as a whole. It also increases productivity and helps you attract great talent to your organisation. 

In the workplace, it’s about being aware of the gender pay gap and working towards providing equal pay and equal opportunities for your female employees. Implementing policies around flexible work, family violence leave and diversity and inclusion can also make your workplace a fairer place to work. You may wish to bring in an expert for training to help you with this.  

Another great step is to make changes to your workplace culture to ensure it’s a safer and more respectful environment for all. For example, women only make up 1-3 percent of skilled trades such as carpentry and electrical – which is crazy given the skills shortage in Australia. Education, changing the culture in workplaces, and campaiging to help women choose those career pathways are all required to get more women working on the tools. It’s a win-win. 

What you can do as an employee 

Gender equality improvements in the workplace generally need to come from the top down, but there’s lots that employees can do to get involved and take action. 

First up: treating fellow employees with respect. That might mean avoiding telling offensive jokes that might alienate some of your co-workers, and calling it out if you see female colleagues being excluded or disrespected. Also, women may need to leave work on time or work more flexible hours – due to caring responsibilities that typically fall to them more than men. Instead of facing discrimination for this, they actually need their co-workers’ understanding. 

Mentoring women, helping them get ahead and suggesting and supporting them in applying for leadership positions can be another great way to champion your female colleagues. If you’re in a position to do so, demanding fair pay for all is a powerful way to show your support and take real action towards enacting change in your workplace. Being open to learning about the challenges women co-workers may face, and taking feedback on board, is also key. 

Still not sure where to start? 

Yes, it can be a challenge supporting gender equality and changing the culture of your existing workplace – whether you’re an employer or an employee. 

But setting goals and working towards them – even on just one or two things – is one way to tackle the problem. And realising that even a small step towards a more equal workplace is a step in the right direction in building more equal workplaces of the future. 

Want more tips? Check out our latest blog posts or download our Toolkit.