In the age of #MeToo and female U.S. presidential candidates, gender equality has captured the spotlight. Women seem to have more power than ever—and yet, this can make navigating the minefield of biased expectations and gender equality issues in the workplace even more difficult.
Whether you’re a woman or you work with at least one in the workplace (let’s be honest, that’s all of us), the following guide can help to traverse through sticky situations andthat enables everyone to succeed regardless of gender. We don’t want to brush our shoulders off too quickly, but this guide is kind of an HR professional’s dream.
Do women really face different expectations than men? Let’s take a look at just a few statistics about gender bias in the workplace:
Doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, right? These statistics don’t mean that every workplace is full of sexist or misogynistic employees, though. Most people don’t even realize that they’re affected by unconscious gender bias or that it is often a hidden (and unfortunate) part of their workplace culture.
Realizing that there may be a problem is the first step toward creating a better workplace, even if it is a bitter pill to swallow. The second is to use the strategies below—applied to common situations you may encounter in a modern workplace—to resolve these problems.
Ambitious women have to walk a fine line. They can often be labelled as too assertive or face opposition from men in the boardroom, especially as they move up the ladder. When these situations arise, it is important to address them head-on. For instance, if you feel that someone has belittled or shushed you in a meeting, pull them aside and explain that you don’t appreciate their behavior. Then, suggest a method for moving forward.
The other person may not even(remember unconscious gender bias?). By explaining the situation calmly one-on-one, you bring it to their attention without embarrassing them in front of peers, while continuing to empower your female employees. If the situation continues to be a problem, consider making it an official HR matter. It’s not “telling on” your coworker if the behavior is inappropriate.
Most workplaces try to avoid the “gender issue” in order to avoid stirring the pot, but equality doesn’t happen by sweeping things under the rug. In fact, it could breed resentment and employee disengagement faster than you can say “#MeToo.”
As an HR professional, it’s up to you to lead the charge and broach the topic from a positive standpoint. Rather than complaining that women are treated differently than men, for instance, host informative trainings or programs aimed at identifying and eradicating unconscious bias.
Try implementing a rubric designed to assess resumes objectively. Assign point values to certain criteria that are important to your organization, such as education level or years of experience. That way, there’s no way that a name (Jane versus John, for example) can unconsciously sway any hiring decisions. All in all, positive steps forward are the best way to broach a potentially awkward topic without putting your foot in your mouth.
Female professionals can’t make progress alone. Building an empowering workplace culture that supports women takes all types—men and women, introverts and extroverts, senior leaders and entry-level employees.
In fact, many of your own coworkers are probably already allies; they want to better your workplace just as much as you do. Perhaps they just don’t know how. Here are a few ideas for leveraging their interest and strengths.
Empower your organization’s female employees and create a culture of encouragement and equality. Develop an effective onboarding process that is customized for your organization!