Ways to Support the Equality of Women at Work

The business world has made strides in advancing gender equity, but there’s still a long way to go. Numerous studies show that women still earn less, get promoted less frequently, and are underrepresented in the highest leadership positions.

  • In 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s annual earnings were 83 percent of men’s, with the gap even wider for women of color.
  • In a recent survey of more than 1,200 entrepreneurs sponsored by HSBC Private Banking, women secured an average of 8 percent less capital than their male peers.
  • A 2021 study conducted by McKinsey in partnership with Lean In showed that women who were the only person of their gender identity, race or ethnicity at work were more likely to be heavily scrutinized by others and to encounter negative stereotyping.

What Gender Bias Looks Like

Gender bias occurs when a person faces unfair disadvantages or benefits from unearned advantages, because of their gender. In workplaces, there is also disturbing evidence of:

  • Caregiver bias: As a majority of caregiving responsibilities, whether they are for children or elders, falls on women’s shoulders. As a result, women are more likely than men to be forced into tough career-related decisions like postponing advancement opportunities, taking unpaid leave, or scaling back their hours.
  • The “motherhood penalty:” Working women who are mothers experience such consequences as lower salaries, fewer promotions and fewer job offers.

And, in women-dominated fields, there’s a trend for companies to pay workers less than those in male-dominated fields, for comparable jobs.

What Real Change Will Look Like

To truly support the women who work for them – and for the future – employees need to advocate for and employers need to support changes such as:

  • Benefits tailored to their lifestyles and needs. These might include more paid sick days and family leave, more comprehensive paid medical leave, and childcare services, to name a few.
  • Ongoing DEI training. It’s not enough to invest in a one-time “flavor of the month” around gender equity. There needs to be a consistent, ongoing commitment to change things for the better.
  • Inclusivity ingrained into company culture. It should happen naturally, but it also takes top-down support and regular proactivity. One such step might be sending managers reminders about how gender bias could influence their employee evaluations, before they conduct them.
  • Measurement of success by goals met, not hours spent on work. Business objectives should be clearly specified. Then, employees should be allowed to creatively and freely pursue them. Presenteeism should not be used as a measure of performance or dedication.

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