Posted: 23 Mar. 2017 05 min. read

The modern guide to equality

Advancing equality in the workplace

Change is the new normal and traditional workplace processes and practices are being overhauled to generate greater levels of innovation, collaboration and creativity. Unfortunately, organisations have struggled to keep up; this is particularly true in relation to the changing composition of the workplace and the opportunities it provides. One of the reasons could be the lack of a blueprint for change.

That omission has prompted Catalyst (US not-for-profit), The Female Quotient and Atlantic Media Strategies to collaborate to develop “The Modern Guide to Equality: Advancing Equality in the Workplace”. Described as a ‘living breathing playbook’, its aim is to accelerate workplace change by looking at current workplace trends and recommending ways to address issues holistically.

This guide – which has a dominant focus on the USA – covers five areas to situate today against an historical context, help understand some of the current challenges facing organisations today, and provide practical applications in the Toolkit for change:

  1. Workplace Equality Timeline
  2. Generations in the Workplace
  3. Workplace Trends
  4. Influencer Interviews
  5. Toolkit for Change

This note provides a summary of the Guide’s five areas of focus.

Workplace Equity Timeline

Winston Churchill famously said “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” The Guide details and celebrates global accomplishments in gender equality in the workplace from 1903 to the present day, so that people can embrace the present and better shape the future.

The Guide posits that while there have been some significant achievements throughout US (and global) history a number of facts have emerged:

  1. Women earn less money than men
    • The average global income for women was estimated at $10,778 and the average man’s income about $19, 873
  2. Progress is slow (and occasionally backwards)
    • The gender gap has only narrowed 2% throughout the last 10 years, and has recently been headed in the wrong direction. In terms of participation, the world today is back to where it was in 2008 after a peak in 2013.
  3. Women take on more caregiving and housework
    • On average worldwide, men only contribute to 34% of the unpaid work that women complete. Girls spend 30% more of their time doing unpaid work than boys.
  4. Women have less political power
    • Women only have 23% of the political power that men have worldwide. In the United States, things are even worse – with women wielding only 17% of the political power.
  5. Fewer women choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields
    • The WEF (World Economic Forum) found that 30% of all male students had degrees in STEM subjects while only 16% of women pursue STEM qualifications.

Looking at gender equality in the workplace gives insight into how the United States (U.S) has progressed (or not) since a Labour Group was created to advocate on behalf of women for improved wages and conditions. Some countries are doing better at other at creating equity while other countries, such as the U.S and Australia continue to drop. The top ten countries for gender equity are:

  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Rwanda
  6. Ireland
  7. Philippines
  8. Slovenia
  9. New Zealand
  10. Nicaragua

The U.S (45) has dropped 17 places since 2015, primarily due to a more transparent measure for the estimated earned income.  Whilst in BRICS countries  (Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) there are improvements across Economic Participation and Opportunity and Educational Attainment. South Africa (15) has increased 4 places and India (87) gained 21 spots.

In order  to fix this equity issue, people need to be aware of it and acknowledge that it is a problem. Sadly, research shows that a surprisingly large percentage of both genders are not aware of the issue. (Do you thing that you and your equally capable colleagues are paid/rewarded in an equal manner regardless of gender Men: YES 56%; NO 44%. Women: YES 78%; NO 22%).

Workplace Trends

The guide summarises workplace trends of now and future workplace cultures.  Developments reflect changes in employee needs, corporate expectations and hiring practices, transformations that will all lead to a more desirable workplace. Outlined below are key trends that are highlighted.

a) Purpose over paycheck

Millennial consumers are pushing companies to prioritise meaning over profit.  A global survey of over 26,000 LinkedIn members by Imperative found that 74% of candidates want a job where they feel that their work matters. This suggests that a sense of purpose may be the biggest job incentive in the current environment.

b) How she leads is how she lives

Integration suggests that we are beginning to see our days and ourselves as a whole: not one person at work and a different person at home. The concept of work and life being one (‘work-life’ integration) is also striking a chord in less tangible ways; inspiring people to use their personal strengths in the workplace and look for that sweet spot where their abilities, passions and desire for fulfillment align.

c) All about ME time

Today’s pressure to be always accessible has left more than half of workers feeling burned out and in desperate need of a reset button. A study by Gyro and Forbes Insights found that 98% of executives check t email during their time off, whilst another Forbes report shows that 64% of manager expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office during personal time.  People are finding the need to go ‘off the grid’ in search of ME time. To keep talent, organisations need to cater to this demand by giving their employees time to drop off and recharge.

d) The Girls’ Club

Today, women-only co-working spaces are a hub for female-driven entrepreneurship and a healthy dose of ‘girl power’.

e) Mental health support

Mental health is an increasingly discussed topic in the workforce.  The Finnish Institute  of Occupational health found that, employees who consistently log long hours are more likely to develop heart disease, substance abuse issues and depression. In response to this worrying trend, some companies are starting to provide mental health first aid to its personnel.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 200 million days are lost from work annually due to mental health issues in the U.S alone, costing employers upward of $100 billion dollars.

f) Cognitive diversity

This is the idea that everyone brings something unique to the table and that this inclusive heterogeneity is essential to problem solving, meeting business objectives and innovation. Workplaces need to embrace the notion that all employees can bring something unique to the table and that success can come from differences of opinion, not in spite of it.

g) Institutionalised diversity

The movement to institutionalise diversity aims to drive inclusion in the workplace and also equal rights, equal opportunities and pay.

h) Salary transparency

It should come as no surprise that people are talking about pay inequity. Organisations who want to attract and retain talent need to make equal pay and show transparency with regard to their HR policies.

The Global Gender Pay Gap

  • The gender pay gap is defined as the difference between media earnings of women and men. This can be either the earnings ratio of the actual pay gap
  • The Global Gender Gap will not close until 2095
  • The average full-time working woman in the Unites States will lose more than $460,000 over a 40 year period in wage due only to the wage gap. To catch up, she will need to work 12 additional years
  • Close to half of all American women were sole or primary breadwinners, earning at least half of the family income of 2012.
  1. Blind recruiting

Unconscious and conscious biases can get in the way of creating a diverse team, even if diversity is an overt goal. These biases are often a factor of cultural norms and stereotypes and could be preventing organisations from hiring the best talent.

  1. The future of the C-suite

Roles within the C-suite are evolving as the cultural landscape changes. Organisations need to find a way to integrate these new roles, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Culture Officer, into existing structures.  Across all C-suite positions, the most senior post is held by the smallest percentage of women, with only 5% serving as CEO. Korn Ferry 2016.

  1. The equal opportunity office

Outdated office layouts perpetuate decades-old stereotypes and prevent equal opportunity in the workplace, prompting organisations to draft new floor plans that cultivate collaboration, support and growth.

Toolkit for change

It is hard to believe- looking at the timeline of events- that, as at 2017, in the business world women still operate at a disadvantage in almost every country around the world. When you overlay that with colour, the disparity for women is even greater. Though not for lack of trying, while global corporate commitment to diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever, many people are struggling to translate corporate policy or promises into action and notable change.  Organisations need to treat equity as a ‘need to have’ not a ‘nice to have’ and recognise the social and economic benefits that flow from workplace parity. The Guide suggests that critical to the successful implementation of the Toolkit is the engagement of Key Change Makers throughout the process from the C-Suite, HR, Managers and employees.

Below are some of the ideas from the Toolkit to effect change:

  1. Closing the Wage Gap

In the US the first gender wage parity was proposed in 1965, however a significant gap endures and women make  .79 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.  While women’s wages have been trending upwards, this positive trajectory is stalling. Equal pay could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.

There are a number of strategic solutions organisations can apply;

  • Run the numbers: compensation analysis gives organisations the ability to identify and remedy pay discrepancies.
  • Teach negotiation skills to women: 31% of women say they are uncomfortable negotiating their salary. This is a persistent reason for the pay gap discrepancy. Offer women workshops or role playing exercises where female employees can practice skills.
  • Don’t repeat history: women of minorities are already underpaid. Define how much work certain skills are worth for the organisation, based on reliable market information.
  • Be transparent: 61% of women wanted employers to reveal the salaries of all employees for even pay compared to 38% men. Glassdoor. This is an immediate and low-cost solution to the wage gap. This type of transparency may have a secondary benefit of making increasing productivity.
  1. Eliminate Bias

Biases are not often deliberate. They are embedded in everyone, shaped over our lifetimes. They are often hidden in the unconscious, yet have the power to derail organsational success. To move forward with equity, organisations must be brave at acknowledging unconscious biases and address their impact.

  • Reveal hidden biases: Leaders need to recognise that the benefits of uncomfortable conversations far outweigh the drawback.
  • Make men listen: The 32 million white men who hold global leadership positions need to become allies or Male Champions of Change, in levelling the playing field for women and minorities in the workplace.  More gender equal companies have a higher rate of return on investment, profitability, job satisfaction and lower labour costs, turn over and absenteeism.
  • Challenge the status quo: Companies need to evolve and employees must feel like they are able to break from conformity and challenge ‘the way we’ve always done it around here’.
  • Implement incentive practices: Some companies are investing in experimental strategies such as ‘diversity technology’ which facilitate blind interviewing so candidates are selected based on skills alone.
  1. Creating Caring Cultures

Companies who want to retain and attract the best talent must foster work environments where women feel they can contribute and succeed. A truly inclusive work culture requires strategic commitment from employees at every level of the organisation.

Strategic solutions

  • Access to advancement: representation of women declines at each rung of the corporate ladder. Women must be able to access to challenging work, critical feedback and training opportunities from the very beginning of their careers. Roughly equal numbers of both genders say they want to be promoted while 25% of women feel that their gender has hindered their progress: Lean In + McKinsey & Co,
  • Diversify your employment pool: Diversity is not just a quota number to hit. Diversity represents new knowledge and fresh perspectives, which can guard against stagnation and groupthink. Diversity of thought and opinion lifts morale, increases organsational effectiveness and can help companies to grow and improve.
  • Start a dialogue: Equality is a social and economic issue that impacts everyone. Policies and practices, no matter how established or prized must be examined through an equity lens.
  1. Visibility for Women

One of the most critical factors for women in career advancement is visibility within the organisation.

Strategic solutions

  • Monitor metrics: increasingly, organisations are using data sets which are released to the public to create more transparency around gender performance metrics and equal pay.
  • Go beyond the traditional network: women are three times more likely to rely on a network that is mostly female.
  • Sponsor women: to get ahead, women must have a sponsor – a powerfully positioned and active champion for their careers. Going beyond mentorship, sponsorship is a two-way relationship – sponsors advocate on their protégés behalf, connecting them to important players and assignments. Since the sponsor’s reputation is on the line, stellar performance and loyalty is expected in return.

The Guide argues that the time for equality is now. Companies need to be proactive in their diversity and inclusion efforts to ensure measured change and sustainability into the future. “Shaping the future starts today, and we are all responsible for ensuring that the future is full of opportunity and equality for people”: Carolyn Everson, Facebook.

For more information, contact Simren Flora

To read the full article, see article: Catalyst’s “The Modern Guide to Equality: Advancing Equality in the Workplace”

This blog was originally authored by "Simren Flora".

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