2020 ushered conversation around diversity and inclusion, following the Black Lives Matter movement. Diversity, inclusion, representation of women and minorities in the workplace, and their rights have never been more critical.
Research says that companies with a higher number of women in their workforce have gained high financial profits and productivity compared to the companies with fewer women employees.
Despite such benefits of having more women on the team, women still face many workplace problems and struggle with the proverbial glass ceiling in corporates.
Here are some challenges women face at the workplace and how companies can choose to challenge these roadblocks and help make their workplaces more inclusive and gender-neutral.
1. Gender pay gap
Simply put, the gender wage gap is a measure of what women are paid relative to men. Research shows that women are paid 34% less than men for performing the same job with the same qualifications. Women are hired into entry-level positions at lower pay rates, and the pay gap gets bigger the higher up women go.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says men and women will have pay equality in 257 years. Of the 153 countries studied for the report, India ranks 112th on the overall Global Gender Gap Index.
What can you do?
As an employer, you should conduct a pay audit to determine if a pay gap exists. Explore different ways of mitigating the pay gap, for example, to prevent a pay gap from developing, prohibit negotiations over pay, stop asking for salary history, instead make the compensation as per the market value for the skills and the experience of the person in question.
2. Representation of women
Female employees continue to be under-represented at every level, especially at senior levels and leadership teams. Women’s ability to lead is often undermined by gender stereotypes, of which leaders need to be more mindful.
Nearly 60% of working women in India face discrimination at work, and over one-third of women believe they are not considered for top management roles. In a telling statistic, only 37 of the Fortune 500 companies are headed by a woman currently. Though this number has been increasing slowly and steadily since 2018, it is also proof that companies have work cut for them to ensure gender diversity in the C-suite.
A study by McKinsey revealed that only 1 in 5 c-suite leaders are women, and only 1 in 25 C-suite leaders is a woman of colour.
What can you do?
Be intentional about appointing highly qualified women to your executive team, corporate board, C-suite, and/or CEO position and choose to challenge the representation issues. As an employer, proactively source for a gender-diverse pipeline at all levels across your organization. Many sourcing platforms provide options to source women; use these platforms to give your diversity efforts a boost, starting with your hiring.
3. Maternity/pregnancy discrimination
Pregnancy discrimination is when an employer discriminates on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Pregnancy discrimination may include denial of time off or reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, firing or demoting a pregnant employee, forced time off or restrictions on work, and any other negative employment action taken because of an employee’s pregnancy or related medical condition.
Over 50,000 women lose their jobs over maternity discrimination. Around 54,000 mothers a year are either dismissed, made redundant where others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave.
While hiring women, many companies ask them openly about their marriage and further family planning as they cannot afford the maternity leaves and other flexibility perks.
What can you do?
To ensure that new mothers are not dropping off the workforce entirely during and after pregnancy, many companies have now included flexibility policies for women who resume their career post-maternity breaks. They provide flexible schedules to accommodate prenatal appointments and/or a medical condition related to the pregnancy.
Employers should choose to challenge maternity discrimination by keeping the dialogue open with an employee about the kind of support she might need during her pregnancy. Companies should train managers to be more supportive and less biased towards expectant/new mothers.
Microaggressions are the everyday, subtle, and often unintentional interactions or behaviors that communicate bias. They signal disrespect and reflect inequality.
They negatively impact a person’s ability to do their job, sense of safety, and overall happiness. Unfortunately, 64% of women experience microaggressions at work, with women having to prove their competence and provide evidence more than their male counterparts.
Microaggressions may seem small when dealt with one by one, but they significantly impact when they add up. Women who experience microaggressions view their workplaces as less fair and are three times more likely to regularly think about leaving their job than women who don’t.
What can you do?
For companies truly invested in diversity, it is essential to build an environment of tolerance and respect. And microaggressions can play a significant role in hampering that kind of environment, apart from affecting employee’s productivity.
Train your staff to identify and not indulge in inadvertent microaggression in their behavior with colleagues. Train them how to respond to these kinds of behavior, keep an open-door policy so that people can come and share their experiences, and know that they are heard. It is important that companies choose to challenge these problems so their workplaces are more inclusive, gender-neutral, and inclusive.
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