What employees can do to promote equality in the workplace
Written by Lieve Kooijman / Thursday March 08, 2018
In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8), IAJN sat down and spoke with gender specialist, Dana McNairn, about strategies you can do today to promote gender equality in the workplace.
These strategies apply to all employees and bosses in any sector and can be shared with your colleagues, clients, suppliers, neighbors etc. And even better? They apply to all genders!
For everyone who wants to contribute to the battle against sexism, here are some things you can take action on today (and every day) to encourage gender equality in your workplace.
Gender equality starts with you!
1. Educate yourself
Do you know what positional bias, cognitive bias, confirmation bias or the empathy gap is? Understanding how you think will better enable you to understand how others think and how they might perceive the world around them.
By understanding how biases work, you can be on the alert for some of the following:
- Do the men in your office (or clients) only introduce themselves to the men in the office, ignoring the present women?
- Are there women present at meetings? How many? Who is asked to be the note taker?
- Are there coworkers who are less praised for the same work, or less listened to?
Discrimination can be subtle, and in these types of cases is often hardly noticed by the person doing it. Simply noticing what is going on around you is a great next step on your journey to change.
3. Speak up
It is not easy to speak up, especially to someone in a senior position; however, whether you are speaking up for yourself or on behalf of someone else in your organisation, an honest and open conversation can make others aware of their behavior.
Some good ways to start such a conversation can be:
- “Did you notice you only greeted our male clients in the meeting today?”
- “Hang on, can we finish hearing what Lisa has to say?”
- Don’t tolerate sexist (or racist or homophobic) behaviors and attitudes. Challenge those who make jokes, slurs or other comments or who do things that demean or attack anyone on the basis of their gender (or sexual orientation or gender identity).
- “What matters is that workers respect each other, are good workers and are committed to be the best they can be.”
- “I’ve found that being a man or a woman has nothing to do with performance and getting the job done.”
- “Our organisation has a non-discrimination policy that covers gender equality. As an employee, I abide by that policy.” / If not yet, see below.
If you need support, seek out your line manager and bring it to your HR department’s attention.
The workplace has many opportunities to promote gender equality and one of the biggest is to connect with one another.
- Ask for (or create) a female mentoring program. Mentoring is a powerful way to give mentees the space they need to both develop and advance within organisations. Mentors can serve as advisors and champions for promotions.
- Create internal networking groups for women in your organisation to create a space for open discussion about the issues they may be facing and their suggestions for solutions
- Staff communications, such as newsletters, should reflect these actions and report the non-confidential updates and activities.
- Become an in-house champion. If you are passionate about gender equality, talk to your employer and suggest you become an in-house champion. You will demonstrate your commitment to equality and anti-discrimination, and over time, influence your colleagues to become champions themselves.
The creation of policies are typically made by senior leadership (sometimes with a board of directors’ input), but the need for the creation of a particular policy can start with you. All organisations should have an anti-discrimination policy, including your company’s statement on gender equality. Click here for some good examples of such a policy.
If your company does not have one, talk to HR or your employer.
If your company does have one, but you have witnessed discrimination or sexism, or have been on the receiving end of this, write a formal complaint and discuss it with your line manager (if you can) or the HR department.
Want to learn more? Here are some books for your lunch break or commute. They’re general interest reading and practically guaranteed to fuel your commitment to gender equality!
- Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Speak up, speak out and contribute!