The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was #BreakTheBias. Sadly, gender inequality in the workplace is still an issue many women face here in New Zealand. According to a recent World Bank report, only six countries give women equal legal work rights as men, and unfortunately, NZ is not on that list. Before we can take action against inequality, we need to understand the many forms of bias that can take place.
Bias in the workplace
The types of bias that women typically encounter include:
Invisibility. e.g. being overlooked for promotion or not being included in decisions etc.
Stereotyping. Making unfounded assumptions about female employees and their abilities.
Isolation. Ignoring or neglecting the needs of women in a male-dominated workplace.
Age. Discriminating against someone due to their age.
Pay. Being paid less than a male counterpart for the same role and responsibilities.
These are only a few examples of bias against women; others include assumptions and discrimination based on perceived physical ability or appearance.
Equality is not a women's issue; it’s a business issue
Improving your organisation’s handling of equity, diversity, and inclusion is not just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. Companies across a range of industries are struggling to find skilled people, and there is a huge opportunity to hire more women into traditionally male roles.
A more gender-equal workforce has been shown to increase productivity and improve decision-making. Having more diversity in your management will naturally offer fresh perspectives and a more holistic approach to problem-solving.
Women are responsible for up to 80% of consumer purchasing, so having more women in decision-making roles is a no-brainer if you’re a B2C business.
A key enabler for a more productive gender-equal workplace is flexible working arrangements for both women and men. While more people are working from home due to COVID-19 policies, this doesn’t necessarily benefit women workers. They may be facing additional household pressures such as home-schooling, care of elderly parents etc.
Employers that offer a flexible, supportive and stable work environment for their female employees will benefit from a skilled and underutilised workforce.
Support for women in the workplace
Confronting bias is an ongoing battle, but thankfully there are great resources to support women in the workplace, including Mind The Gap (https://www.mindthegap.nz), NZ’s first pay gap registry. As well as highlighting pay discrepancies, the site provides links to NZ’s larger employers and their policies around pay, inclusion and diversity.
I also recommend following leadership coaches for women, such as Amanda Sterling. You can follow her on LinkedIn for great advice and inspiration.
All business leaders can help address the ongoing issues of bias by reviewing their company structures and policies. Policies should:
Include clear definitions around equality, diversity and inclusion
Outline roles and responsibilities for supporting these initiatives
Include consequences for not complying with these policies.
If you’re an organisation looking to address bias or an individual working to overcome bias I would love to hear from you, contact me at loveyourworknz.