With more women entering political leadership roles – see the likes of Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel and Hilary Clinton – the issue of gender equality in the workplace is as relevant and important as ever.
As in politics, there are many female role models in business leadership positions. Did you know, for example, that the chief executives of YouTube, IBM, Yahoo, PepsiCo and General Motors are all women? Women today also have a broader range of career opportunities than their parents’ generation, and young girls are being encouraged to study subjects previously deemed ‘masculine,’ such as science, engineering, technology and maths.
All businesses can benefit from having a balanced workforce. In fact, The Personnel Today website recently noted that female leaders may even provide a different type of leadership to men; one that encourages adaptability and collaboration, and is particularly suited to the modern business environment.
But that doesn’t mean employers should hire female candidates just to meet a quota; candidates should be employed on their merit, and organisations should have a culture that allows both men and women to thrive equally. Here are some ways that HR can achieve this:
1. Tackle conscious and unconscious bias
Unconscious bias is one of the biggest barriers to female success in the workplace, with predominantly male bosses choosing candidates ‘in their own image.’ This can also be true for different ethnicities, class groups, religion, age and sexual orientation. Run workshops for staff – particularly those involved in the hiring process – about why bias is wrong, and how to reduce it.
2. Promote equality
This largely comes down to equal pay, development and reward systems for both male and female staff. Men and women should be paid equally and be given an equal chance to succeed.
3. Support flexible working
There’s a growing cultural shift for more flexible working patterns, and organisations who do not consider implementing them may fall behind. People of both genders want to achieve a better work/life balance, and those with childcare or elderly care responsibilities shouldn’t be penalised by bosses. Support flexible working options and you’ll have happier and more loyal staff.
4. Offer career advice
Both genders should be offered guidance about their career goals and the options available to help them meet their ambitions. This can be a particular concern for women in their late 20s, however, as many will be thinking about starting a family and will want to know their options.
5. Provide coaching and workshops
One-to-one coaching and workshops can boost employees’ learning and development. The issues covered in the sessions may be different for men and women. For example, women in particular may struggle with ‘limiting beliefs’ – such as a lack of confidence – that can put them off applying for senior roles, while men may need to work on empathy or self-awareness.
Image: Equals by sandeep loomba available under the (CC BY 2.0) license