Fostering a culture of gender equity at workplace
Gender equity is often used interchangeably with gender equality, but the two terms are not quite the same. Gender equality focuses on treating everyone equally – but is that enough? People of different genders may have different needs and experiences which need to be taken into account for fair treatment. Hence, true inclusion and belonging begin with embracing gender equity.
Despite the significant progress in recent years, the gender gap issue persists in the workplace. According to the Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum, if the current pace of progress continues, it will take approximately 135 years for women to achieve overall gender equality with men.
So, what’s holding back fostering a culture of gender equity at work?
The challenges in creating gender equity at work stem from discriminatory norms that are deeply ingrained in society. These include gender-based stereotypes and unconscious biases like assumptions that men are better suited for certain roles or underestimating women's abilities, leading to discrimination in the workplace.
These inequities are amplified when women often drop out of the workforce or ‘settle for less’ due to a lack of strong childcare support systems.
So, how can organisations create a culture of gender equity in the workplace?
Change is driven by collective activism, which can range from grassroots efforts to widespread movements. Achieving gender equity requires more than just women fighting for it.
Here are some steps that employers can take to create a more inclusive workplace culture that fosters gender equity:
Creating a culture of gender equity begins at the top: Company leaders must set the tone by ensuring that the organisation's values and policies align with the principles of gender equity, like making a commitment to diversity and inclusion in all company communications.
Encourage dialogue and effective communication: Companies must provide accessible channels to fellow female colleagues to share their experiences, raise concerns, and offer suggestions for improving the workplace. For example, creating a dedicated and monitored email address or online platform where women can voice their concerns.
Encourage employee participation: Employers need to create safe spaces to have open dialogues in order to deepen employee perspectives on equity. It is only when employees understand the opportunity gap that they can better support each other in bridging the gap.
Implement gender-Inclusive policies: For instance, employers can provide equal opportunities for men and women in terms of job assignments, promotions, and compensation. Additionally, employers must implement policies and programs that support employees in balancing their work and personal lives.
Offer learning & development programs: Extending participation opportunities that promote gender equity can help employees understand the importance of gender equality and encourage behaviour that supports it.
Enable managers and foster their commitment towards equity: Managers need to be supported to understand unconscious biases and they need to be equipped with skills and tools to build a diverse talent pool and also make the most out of the diverse talent pool.
Celebrate diversity and Inclusion: Employers must recognise and celebrate the achievements of all employees, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. This can be done through employee recognition programs, cultural celebrations, or other events that promote diversity and inclusion.
At Boehringer Ingelheim India, in order to bridge these inequities systemically, we have created an agile cross-functional task force called – Sabrang. Sabrang (a Hindi word) is a harmonious mélange of colours that reflects our idea to accentuate every colour in the mix. In a complex and challenging business environment where we need to leverage the diversity of thought to drive productivity, we are continuously striving to find ways to strengthen our inclusive culture.