The 5 Signs That a Business is Starting to Make Progress on Gender Equality
Women now have more opportunities in the workplace than they’ve ever had before. But we’re still a long way from the ideal, as there are still obstacles to overcome before we achieve true parity.
It’s great if every woman gets to work in a company that cares about diversity. Here are the signs that you’ve spotted the real deal.
Despite certain improvements in recent years, gender inequality is still a major issue in Australia. Especially when it comes to women in business.
Compounding the problem is that lots of people gloss over it, not the least because it doesn’t seem all that impactful on the surface.
You may have even heard of a handful of powerful businesswomen in the news. But these are the exceptions.
As of last year, the average gender wage gap was 14%. This means that Australian women earn $241 per week less than men.
In Western Australia, the gap is abnormally high at almost 22%.
What’s the root cause of this?
First, there’s still a tendency to label industries as male or female-dominated. The outwardly approved-for-female industries (aged and child care, community services) are still underrated and not as well paid.
On the other hand, the highest-paid positions in the country are largely the territory of men. You’ll have a hard time finding a company where women assume the majority of the leadership positions.
The CEO positions and high government officials are more likely to have male representatives.
This may concern a number of female leaders who aspire to climb up the ladder. However, the trend is on the downswing as many companies are striving to create meaningful gender equality.
The companies that value gender equality exhibit a set of traits. You may want to look for the following policies before you accept a position at the company.
#1 - Transparency and Objectivity
Companies that are transparent in their dealings are more reliable and trustworthy. This policy can prevent not only gender inequality but also most other forms of favouritism.
For example, a transparent compensation structure can prevent the rise of internal conflicts and gossip. Additionally, such a policy creates a culture of trust and a sense of community.
All employees are aware of what they’re worth and what they have to do to improve it.
The company would reward the effort regardless of gender or connections.
The employees are more dedicated and aware of their goals. Occasionally, the company may evaluate those goals and give out rewards.
A great example of transparent policies in practice is evident in analytics company SumAll of New York City. Forbes wrote about this company a few years ago, focusing on its transparent “internal network.”
On this network, every employee’s salary’s displayed right next to their name. The policy springs from owner Dan Atkinson’s own experience:
“At past companies, people would cry or scream at each other if they realized they had been under-compensated. We want to help people understand that there are other ways to build successful organizations.”
#2 - Thorough and Unbiased Interview Process
Whether you like it or not, there are plenty of unconscious biases in the corporate world.
For example, a company may receive two applications of the same credentials.
Both are for a leadership position and tick all the boxes. However, one belongs to a man and the other a woman.
It’s likely that the former will receive the first call. Just because of the cultural belief that men are more capable in a position of power.
Of course, this is an over generalisation.
However, eliminating bias can be a tougher challenge than it seems. Even as many companies are consciously working on that.
For example, some may choose to remove names from the application forms to avoid the formation of subconscious decisions.
Others may look to diversify the interviewing panel.
A diverse recruitment team is a positive signal. On top of that, the interview process ought to be thorough. The interviewers should delve into the details of your past work, with the same process for both men and women.
Also, they may ask you if you’ve had any negative experiences at a previous workspace because of your gender.
Companies that focus on these questions during recruitment tend to support a diverse culture.
Therefore, if you come across diversity from the very beginning, it’s a positive sign for the future.
#3 – Elimination of Sexual Harassment
According to a recent study, one out of four women is a current or past victim of sexual harassment at work. And that’s only among women who chose to disclose it.
There are a lot more instances that fall under the radar.
Sexual harassment is a major issue in the workplace. It can exist anywhere from small businesses to the glitters of the entertainment industry.
People sweep it under the rug where it could remain for decades.
Today, all companies are openly against sexual harassment. If you work in a larger company, you’re certain to receive sexual harassment awareness training.
Except that in most cases, this policy is a dead letter.
Managers and colleagues are dismissive or slow to react to early signs of harassment. It’s a clear sign of gender inequity that may make it impossible for women to prosper.
Even so, there are positive signs seen in today’s businesses that are actively tackling this problem.
Besides training and other precautionary measures, some companies have been resolute in sanctioning the offence. Regardless of the offender’s position in the company.
Unfortunately, there remain many companies that are slow to react. It’s a red flag if you notice signs of workplace harassment out in the open.
#4 – Providing Good Work-Life Balance
The most egregious gender inequality often hides in small details.
For example, you may come across plenty of companies that have made a big deal about narrowing the gender wage gap. But if you look closer, this may only account for the younger women in the workforce, excluding working mothers and those who got pregnant while in employment.
Women usually have to choose between having a career and a family.
Fortunately, companies are starting to pay more attention to work-life balance.
By not sanctioning time off, to begin with. Especially when it’s related to employee children.
In relation to the above, businesses have started to compensate for child care and institute parental leave for the fathers.
This takes a burden off the working mothers, who’d be better able to balance their life and career.
Look for a company that promotes a flexible work schedule. That will allow you to adjust your day according to your child’s needs. Some companies allow employees to work remotely if needed.
Tech companies often have great work/life balance. Dynatrace, a software company in Massachusetts, USA, ranks as one of the best in this regard.
In an interview for Business Insider, a Dynatrace employee said:
“I love the flexibility to work in a virtual environment. It allows me to get up and be productive quickly and longer throughout the day because I do not have to deal with commute time."
#5 – Women in Senior Roles
The most accurate indicator of gender equality is perhaps in a company’s hierarchy.
A business can have an equal number of male and female employees. But would that show the full picture?
Imagine a business where the managers, team leaders, or board members are 80% male. On the other hand, 80% of the women are further down in the pecking order. It wouldn’t satisfy anybody’s definition of equality, would it?
If you wish to become part of a company that truly cares about gender equality, just look upward. If men are dominating the leadership positions, it’s hardly balanced.
Luckily, the tides are slowly shifting.
By the end of 2019, women hold around 30% of senior management roles – more than ever before. Also, almost 90% of businesses worldwide have at least one woman in a senior role.
However, senior women executives still only make up 11% of the world’s top 500 companies. It’s only in recent years that many of them are working on diversity.
For example, when Mary Barra became the CEO of General Motors in 2014. she also became the first woman CEO of a major automotive company.
We can only hope that this is just the beginning.
Be Quick to Notice the Change
Gender inequality persists in the corporate world in most parts of the world.
Fortunately, there are plenty of today’s Australian businesses that genuinely care about diversity. That’s the mindset that you should look for and the healthy environment that you’ll want to be a part of.
You can easily avoid those companies that only pay lip service to inequality.
It could be as easy as looking for the signs above and focusing on the essentials.
And if you’d like to find out more about gender inequality and perhaps join the fight against it, you can always get in touch. Book me for a speaking event for more info on this vital topic.