The concept of gender diversity in the workplace has come a long way since it was first introduced. Traditional definitions describe workplace gender diversity as an equal number of men and women employed at a single company. Today, however, the meaning of gender diversity is a bit more complex than that.
A gender diverse workforce begins with equitable hiring practices — meaning men and women are brought on with a company at an equitable rate. But this extends beyond just recruitment. Your organization isn’t truly diverse until female employees are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. This means occupying as many executive and managerial roles as men, inhabiting all teams and departments within the company and being paid an equal wage.
Although your organization has likely already made strides to tackle these inequities, it’s important to revisit these efforts and make continuous improvements towards closing the gender gap. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the benefits of a more gender diverse workforce and share actionable ways to elevate your existing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Common gender diversity issues in the workplace
Workplace gender diversity has come a long way in recent years as a growing number of organizations have begun to prioritize equitable hiring and promoting practices. However, there are a number of issues surrounding gender equality and inclusion that still remain common.
Here are the top challenges that forward-thinking companies are working to address:
- Lack of female representation in leadership roles. According to Fortune, just 6.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies have women as their Chief Executive Officers. This illustrates a stark gender disparity in access to leadership opportunities.
- Wage inequality. Women receive lower wages than their male counterparts in similar positions. One study from Payscale shows that women earn 82 cents where a man might make a dollar.And the wage gap is even larger for women of color. The Center for American Progress states that for every dollar earned by a White man, Asian women earn 90 cents, Black women earn 62 cents, American Indian women earn 57 cents and Latinx women earn just 54 cents.
- Sexual harassment and retaliation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that at least 25 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment at their place of work. An additional study revealed that 75 percent of women who reported their experience faced some kind of retaliation — either by losing their jobs or experiencing further mistreatment at their company.
Importance of gender diversity in the workplace
Greater gender diversity benefits nearly every function within an organization.
When you implement effective diversity recruiting strategies, you’re setting your company up for success by having access to a wider pool of talented job seekers. Gender diverse businesses also typically see improved employee retention rates. Put simply, people who feel safe and valued within the workplace are more likely to stick around.
Additionally, you build a positive brand reputation among both customers and prospective employees. Customers who see themselves reflected in the staff at your company recognize that your commitment to diversity in the workplace is genuine — not just a vanity initiative. Plus, having a gender-diverse workforce allows your organization to effectively serve a diverse customer base.
This same principle applies to job-seekers. A diverse and inclusive company culture attracts applications from candidates who identify with these values and can see themselves working alongside your current team members.
Gender diversity can also boost profits — McKinsey reports that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to notice a higher return-on-investment (ROI). As more women enter the global labor market, leading companies recognize that it’s critical to prioritize gender diversity to remain competitive.
Gender diversity initiatives in the workplace
Most organizations know that they play an important role in addressing diversity challenges. However, recognizing the need for a more diverse workforce is only just the beginning. It’s likely that your business may already have some initiatives in place that exist to close the gender gap. However, it’s important to revisit your efforts periodically to ensure that they’re actually making an impact.
If you haven’t already, here are several areas of opportunity to take into consideration:
- Practice wage transparency
Wages should be transparent and equal. Women should be earning the same amount as their male counterparts with similar job duties and similar levels of experience. Consider implementing transparent pay brackets that allow your employees to benchmark their pay against others in a similar role.
- Leverage employee education
Education is a powerful tool for breaking down systemic barriers that keep women from advancing in the workforce. Consider implementing a comprehensive workforce education program that enables career development and allows all of your employees to build skills and earn degrees or credentials on their own schedule.
- Think beyond diversity training
While it’s true that diversity training can be an effective method for generating awareness around workplace diversity issues and microaggressions, it’s not a solution that will change behaviors overnight. Instead, leading corporations view training as just one part of a greater DEI initiative that touches all facets of an organization — from hiring, to skills development and ongoing education.
- Implement fair promotion practices
People managers play a key role in ensuring that their female direct reports have equal access to advancement opportunities and are evaluated fairly when up for promotion. Implement training on fair promotion practices and encourage managers to have open discussions with their team members about career growth and development.
- Elevate mentorship programs
Workplace mentoring programs are known to be effective at engaging employees and encouraging career development. But they can also be a powerful tool for promoting a more diverse and inclusive work environment. Consider implementing a new mentorship program (or revisiting your existing one) that emphasizes the needs of women and other employees from underrepresented groups.
- Write inclusive job descriptions
The language used in a job description can directly influence who applies for a position. Avoid gendered language that could dissuade men or women from applying. Additionally, shift job descriptions away from listing qualifications and instead include expectations for accomplishments within the role. This tactic greatly widens your pool of applicants and can positively contribute to gender diversity in the long term.
The path toward a more gender diverse workplace
A commitment to elevating workplace gender diversity has the power to accelerate your business, boost your bottom line and most importantly, create a more equitable workplace for your team members. And while gender equity has advanced by leaps and bounds over the previous years, there is still a lot of work to be done.
With these considerations in mind, you’re armed with the right tools to elevate your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and make a real difference within your organization.
Getting buy-in from leadership is a critical component of any business strategy. Learn how to make the business case for your DEI plan, complete with a free presentation template to help you get started.