Issues pertaining to gender equality at the workplace have improved tremendously over the past few decades, but although we’ve come a long way as a nation, there are still areas that require more work in order to shrink or possibly even annihilate the remaining gaps. Although women, especially millennials, are nowadays in the best position they’ve ever been in terms of opportunities and career progression, it seems that we are not quite there yet. Despite our efforts, female workers are still getting paid less than their male counterparts across the globe and women remain significantly underrepresented in senior management positions.
So, what can be done in order to eliminate gender stereotypes and achieve equality at the workplace?
1. Provide training on gender equality to your management staff
Change needs to start from within by raising awareness internally. This can be done by educating managers about the different forms of discrimination that occur in a business context which can be both quite obvious or more subtle in nature. Managers need to be taught how to identify discrimination when it takes place among staff, how to deal with the situation and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
2. Familiarise yourself with anti-discrimination laws and put into place any supporting policies
It is your duty as an employer or as a manager to have a clear understanding of the laws in place to prevent discrimination at the workplace. By doing so, you will be in a better position to handle and regulate them. Moreover, it is vital for your company to have clear policies in place to support anti-discrimination issues such as equal work for equal pay or harassment for example so that employees can follow a clear, correct code of conduct.
3. Be more transparent when it comes to pay
Unfortunately, the gender pay gap remains quite a prominent issue, and the clearest example of gender inequality at the workplace. Research shows this is an occurrence even in Malta because although our island has made notable improvement in this area, we are still not close to closing the gap.
Transparency with pay figures is the first step in tackling workplace inequalities regarding pay. It is important to assess where men and women are doing work of equal value and restructure, to eliminate the difference between those unjustified gaps.
Speaking openly about one’s pay is still considered quite taboo in many countries and tends to make people quite uncomfortable. This is likely because salaries and their derivatives are perceived to define our social status. Hence, it's still socially unacceptable to be overly inquisitive about other people’s salaries. However, in Scandinavian countries everyone’s income tax returns are published every year for the public to see. In Sweden, for example, businesses with 25+ employees have to establish an equality action plan, and companies with big pay gaps face fines if they fail to take steps to close them. Since this system was introduced, the Swedish gender pay gap has shrunk.
4. Foster your company’s next female leaders
This can be achieved by showcasing your company's successful women. Celebrate success if their performance is meeting your expectations whether that means giving a promotion, a pay rise or simply a word of praise when it is appropriate to do so. There is nothing as demonstrative of your efforts to promote equality than actually putting things into practice.
5. Offer support for parents
Parenthood is one of the leading factors that causes women to take a step back in their career or even put it on hold altogether. Although having children can take its toll on both men and women when it comes to career, women are usually the ones who are affected most.
Moving forward, it would be ideal to provide your employees with quality, on-site child care facilities. Another two alternatives would be to work with your human resources department to integrate flexi-time and start making ‘family leave’ as an available option to both men and women and which is separate from one’s personal leave.
Although much has improved, especially in Western society, the concept of the glass ceiling can unfortunately still be felt. It might be hard but it is breakable - with the right mindset and course of action.
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