We live in a world that is not kind to minorities. Science has gone onto say that it is innately difficult for humans to accept and understand anything which is doesn’t conform to our understanding of normal, and we perceive it as a threat. The workforce of the organized sector might looked at as a homogenous population, with similar lifestyles and perceptions, but the realities of social norms do extend themself into workplaces as well.
Gender bias is an inherent flaw of the global social order, and it also exists in the office. One might argue that a lot has changed in the last few decades, and they might be right, but the only way this transition can be described as is turning very bad to bad. Only explicit biases maybe on the decrease, but implicit and subconscious biases have taken a new form and life. A lot of times this discourse is written off as propaganda by naysayers, but one needs to understand that gender bias in a workplace is not just a function of pay parity, glass ceiling, and sexual harassment claims.
A survey, done as a part of her book by Barbara Annis, with 240,000 women revealed that women feel ‘professional exclusion’ in their workplaces, while men remain unaware that this was even a problem, simply because they have never been on other side of the fence. And this seems to be the foremost struggle and challenge, that there is no official identification of the fact that women are actually discriminated against. Do you think there is no such challenge at your organisation? Irrespective of what you may assume, undertake the following steps to first acknowledge the problem, and then rectify it:
To identify internal practices that are gender discriminatory, add a spectrum of gender to your next audit as well. Get a consultant from the development sector to help you through the process if needed. Either of the two outcomes seem favourable; you get the statistics to back the claim that your organisation doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender, or you will end up identifying some issues – which can be the starting point to initiate anti-discriminatory policies.
Make a Note
If you are a team leader or a person in high leadership position, you probably spend a lot of time attending and convening meetings. The next time you do so, make a mental note of how balanced the discussion was – in terms of who spoke, what they spoke, who made counter-arguments etc. Take a stroll around the office premises during lunch break to see if everyone breaks bread together or are the groups defined by gender. The latter in itself isn’t a cause of worry, but might be a starting point to probe further.
Diversity and Gender Equality Training (at least for managers)
Although you are mandated to show an archaic presentation on gender equality during orientation, it is recommended that you also include diversity and gender equality training in the off-site workshops and trainings, if not for all, at least for team leaders and managers. These should be well-defined diversity and equality training and programs that look at removing intentional and unintentional discriminatory practices in all aspects of work – right from when a person enters the organisation to when they exit.
This is a small and easily manageable internal exercise. Float around a feedback survey asking the female employees about their satisfaction with the facilities of the office, like the parking, the wash room, the pantry etc. Is the location of the office a problem for some? How do they think it can be tackled best – a change in timing or pick-and-drop facility? Do they use the recreational facilities which are intended for them? Are they comfortable with the office timing, the holiday schedule and work-from-home cap? Only when you get their feedback – is when you can work to eradicate the issues they face. Make sure the questions are relevant and collection methodologies have minimal error.
Make it Official
Last but not the least, pledging your allegiance to feminism is one thing, and making it official is another. You might claim to be a progressive organisation that doesn’t discriminate, but if your company policy doesn’t have it on paper, it is of no practical use. If your organisational laws and policies do not officially and categorically remove discriminatory practices against women, that is where you need to begin.
Gender biases in workplace settings are nothing but an extension of gender bias in our social structures, and it is critical to identify them at the right stage. Training programmes in isolation might not work, so they need to be complemented with timely and effective interventions to facilitate a more inclusive workplace for everybody. As Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership wrote in a response, “The problem isn’t women, it’s the workplace.”
Sure, we live in a world that is not kind to minorities – it has never been, but we also live in a world where being ignorant and complacent doesn’t cut it anymore.
What are some policies that promote gender inclusion at your organisation? Let us know!