Advocating for Gender Equality in the Workplace
Men can advocate for gender equality in the workplace, but success depends on getting past traditional vagaries and moving toward specific programs designed not only to attract but also retain women.
Gender equality in the workplace is essential to building a competitive organisation that recruits and retains the best talent. However, bringing about change is often easier said than done. According to Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner for Australia, making significant progress on gender diversity in the workplace is unlikely without the avid support of men, because it is men who currently dominate the leadership group in most large businesses and control most of the financial and other resources.
Interest in gender equality and how to make it happen was featured in a recent Forbes article, with insights from Mike Gamson, Senior Vice President for LinkedIn Global Solutions.
Gamson shares the wisdom that led him to make significant progress toward gender equality at LinkedIn, acknowledging three things that men in leadership positions can do:
- Recognize the unconscious biases that are maintaining the status quo and disadvantaging other groups.
- Focus on recruitment and hiring. Gamson advocates for a highly deliberate emphasis on creating a diverse workforce.
- Invest in high-potential employees and set up investments that are explicitly there to reach underrepresented talent.
These insights are based on broad assertions about the competitive advantage of being more diverse. Being more diverse brings differing perspectives that can help organisations be more innovative.
Hiring won’t help if you don’t retain: According to Rita Mitjans, ADP’s first Chief Diversity and Corporate Responsibility Officer, if your culture does not embrace different perspectives, you will not be able to retain that diversity. Consider whether your organisation has the benefits, work environment and perks to ensure they stay, starting with employee on-boarding and orientation. Track turnover carefully and prepare yourself for change if you need to start addressing cultural, or other, factors that may be driving women away.
Champion less, listen more, advocate most: It can seem paradoxical when men start to assert themselves in the workplace to create a more welcoming environment for women. Support women in leadership and emerging leadership roles and challenge them, in turn, to spearhead efforts to improve gender equality in the workforce.
Create resource groups, network activities and other sponsored opportunities for women: When you create networks for women, you establish a centralized forum that can provide feedback and insights specific to women.
Men can be a part of this momentum by advocating, listening and supporting these efforts and leading by example, including standards for acceptable workplace behaviour. Adrian Warr, Managing Director of Edelman Hong Kong, points out that jokes about race and disability, which were common in previous generations, make us squirm now. “It’s time to consign gender jokes to the same embarrassing box,” he says.
It can be a benefit to understand that supporting the cause of gender equality in the workplace enhances your organisation by helping you attract better, more diverse talent. Sanjeev Chatrath, Finance and Risk Executive of Thomson-Reuters and Co-Chair of Male Allies, summed it up perfectly: “We need to have an open mind on the tremendous possibilities of what we can accomplish by working together – women and men.”
Are you leading diversity efforts at your organisation? Register now for our upcoming webinar featuring Director of People at Buffer, Courtney Seiter, who loves to discuss the intersection of workplace culture and diversity/inclusion.