Addressing Gender Equality In The Workplace

Is your business taking action to really drive and promote gender equality at work?

Addressing Gender Equality In The Workplace

When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, there have been some strides forward. However, it’s a fact that even now women are very under-represented, and they still earn less than their male counterparts.

Globally, there are only about 13 women CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies. Looking closer to home at all of the JSE-listed companies, recent stats show that only 3.3% of CEOs are female.

In terms of the gender pay gap, things aren’t looking better. In South Africa, the average gender pay gap, according to the National Business Initiative, ranges between 9 and 35% with women earning an approximate R72.44 to every R100 earned by a man.

Let’s raise more awareness about gender inequality in the workplace by considering the contributing factors and how companies can counteract this.

What Factors Contribute To Inequality At Work?

Closing The Pay Gap
  • Lack of access to education: Millions of girls in South Africa don’t receive the same quality education as boys. Reasons include racial disparity, poverty, patriarchy, and gender-based violence.

  • Unequal employment rights and lack of legal protections: South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 strives to address workplace inequality. Its labour law also guarantees equal opportunity and prohibits workplace discrimination. Yet, the World Economic Forum estimates it will take 200 years before equal gender pay is a reality.

  • Racism: This is closely linked with gender inequality as Black, Indigenous, and women of colour are still grossly under-represented in the workplace and positions of power.

  • Social mindsets and culture: Society's views on gender significantly impact gender inequality in the workplace.

  • Stereotypes: The minority of women study mathematics, engineering, and IT, and as a result, few women work in these fields.

  • Job segregation: Believing that women should hold certain jobs (that is, low valued, low-earning jobs), while their male counterparts should work in higher-paying, high position jobs.

Five Processes Companies Can Implement To Promote Gender Equality In The Workplace

1. Increase Diversity

Link Between Gender and Diversity

For the hiring process, ensure your talent acquisition team is gender diverse.

Next, reconsider your job descriptions. They should promote gender equality and inclusivity. Also, consider the language you use in your job descriptions. Words like "dominant" and "assertive" attract more male applicants than female ones.

Assess the requirements for each job and see how you can foster a larger pool of applicants. If the job requires ten years of experience, could seven to eight years suffice?

2. Do a Pay Audit and Provide Equal Pay

Conduct a company-wide pay audit and investigate whether your male and female employees earn the same. Examine employment positions, experience, education level, and performance to identify any pay gaps.

Once you’ve done a pay audit and found discrepancies in gender-based pay, remedy these and provide equal pay to your female and male employees.

3. Promote Work-Life Balance

Firstly, many women leave the workforce when they start a family as it is challenging to balance raising kids with their career goals. Furthermore, many companies provide insufficient maternity leave and seldomly offer paternity leave. Businesses also force mothers to take unpaid maternity leave.

To remedy this, companies should review their policies and offer equal and paid parental leave to both moms and dads.

Secondly, many employees are looking for flexibility in the workplace, especially if they have family responsibilities. Companies can address this by making working remotely an option.

Work Life Balance For Men and Women

4. Create a Supportive and Nurturing System for Growth

Advancing career goals is challenging for women. They face unequal gender pay, unfair maternity leave policies, diversity challenges, and much more.

Another aspect that should form part of the gender inequality in the workplace discourse is the lack of a growth ecosystem that is supportive. There are those women who have made it to the top, but they will rarely mentor young female talent.

Fierce competition on the way to the top of the corporate ladder is one obstacle. The other is keeping that senior position takes a lot of hard work. A nurturing growth system where women can all help each other achieve their career goals would go a long way to levelling the gender inequality playing field.

5. Ensure a Clear Anti-Discrimination Policy Is in Place

A Unilever study found that employees struggle to speak up about inappropriate behaviour and workplace discrimination. Nearly 70% of women feel they need to just “get over” such abuse and dominating behaviour.

Thus, a step that companies can take to promote gender equality in the workplace is to ensure they have clear, unbiased, and non-retaliatory policies on discrimination.

Policy To Support Workplace Equality

Final Thoughts

The time to act is now. Campaigns to raise gender inequality awareness are great, but actions always speak louder than words.

Companies should take a careful look inwards and examine how they can eliminate gender inequality in the workplace. Start by ensuring the gender pay gap is closed, all aspects of the hiring process are gender diverse, and promoting a work-life balance.