Enough has been said, done and is being done to ensure gender equality and provide women equal opportunities at home and the workplace. The fact that there is a strong need to redefine our cultural and societal practices to nurture equity between genders in all aspects of life doesn’t need any reiterations.
It’s a known fact that around the world, women do three times as much unpaid care work as men. They also face inequality and biases in the world of work that marginalize their chances of growth. However, despite good intentions and numerous interventions, the problem still persists.
Research and real-life scenarios have proven that the success of an organization depends on the organization’s ability to attract and empower those with different perspectives. Organizations that embrace gender diversity on their executive teams are more competitive and more likely to experience above-average profitability. There is substantial research to show that diverse representation across all levels of the organization brings many advantages to an organization: increased profitability and creativity, stronger governance and better problem-solving abilities.
All organizations have very meticulously planned diversity, equity and inclusion policies that clearly articulate the intentions and actions. These policies have resulted in increased awareness and also addressed many problems, but there’s still a long way to go.
We all need to work together to maintain and accelerate progress on gender equality. By approaching gender inequality solely as a problem to fix by running mentorship programs for women or driving promotions to the next level, even the most well-intentioned actions become tactical and lose impact. Buzz around extraordinary focus on women and the various interventions and policy changes to ensure women are able to succeed often leave women feeling conflicted and unmotivated as there is a danger of it being misinterpreted as a need for better skills and competency to achieve the same degree of success as men.
Therefore, we need to radically rethink and evaluate our programs and interventions to create an environment where women can contribute as equals, achieve their potential and are fully celebrated and rewarded without making men feel resentful. So that we avoid the risk of introducing a new type of bias.
Per statistics, while we have achieved many milestones, a lot still needs to be done to build an equal world; however, we can’t build an equal world if we don’t build it for everyone. In all our efforts, our focus tends to be on women not having the same rights and choices that men have. In certain scenarios, aren’t men also disadvantaged and do not have the same choices that women do? Do we really allow men to pursue non-typical careers? Do we accept men who are not the major breadwinners in the family?
Our society has also created stereotypes for men that limit their options in life and it’s time to break fences around the classical male and female distribution of roles at work and in our society. With this fresh approach, the landscape and road map to building an equal world would be very different and perhaps even be shorter than where we currently find ourselves now.
Actions we can take to build a truly inclusive workplace where the progress of women does not lead to unintended consequences:
- Ensure equal opportunity and participation of both men and women for all learning programs.
- Mentor high-potential women for leadership roles.
- Launch mentoring programs for men and assign women leaders as their mentors; review your coaching and mentoring programs and check whether you have only men mentoring other men. Nominate men with working spouses/partners to lead and drive D&I programs.
- Probe for inherent biases at the time of interview – do the men being interviewed have working partners – if not, why?
- Ensure pay parity during job offers and at the time of promotions.
- Ensure work-life balance and provide flexibility.
- Challenge and report biases.
We all have opportunities every day to create an inclusive and equal world. Let’s make the best of those to collectively bridge the gender gap.