A leading study has found that company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well-represented at the top of the hierarchy. Having an inclusive workplace should therefore be on every business leader’s agenda. However, it’s not enough to merely have an all-encompassing attitude and hope the rest falls into place. Achieving the dream of an inclusive workplace culture takes a proactive approach, and such a goal needs to become part of your core business strategy.
Where are we going with gender equality in the workforce?
Equal pay acts are nothing new. The US introduced its own act in 1963, with the UK following in 1970. Such statistics make it all the more surprising that in the modern era, 31% of women earn less than their male colleagues for performing the same roles.
The Equal Pay Day movement holds a symbolic date every year to highlight how many more days women are having to work in order to earn the same as men. In 2022, this fell on March 24th, which means a whopping 83 days.
Furthermore, 15% have faced sexual harassment, and 43% of mothers have experienced maternity discrimination. Things may have improved for the better when compared to previous years, but there’s still a long way to go before true gender equality in the workforce exists.
Why being inclusive is important in the workplace
For starters, workplace inclusivity is a fairer system. Everyone in life deserves an opportunity to compete on the same level, and be judged on their talents alone. But there’s so much more to the issue than that.
A Gallup study on workplace inclusivity showed that companies with more equal gender splits have more engaged employees, and more engaged employees have been shown to be 17% more productive. Moreover, inclusive workforces have better staff retention rates, which save employers expensive hiring fees and enhance business reputation.
An inclusive workplace also leads to greater innovation. A wider pool of backgrounds makes for a wider sphere of imagination when it comes to ideas and problem-solving. The views of tomorrow’s workforces deserve a special mention here too.
Younger people have grown up in typically more inclusive societies and have a greater awareness of prejudice than any previous generation. They are more likely to want their day-to-day work experience to mirror their own social and environmental values, and are less likely to accept a role with a company that doesn’t share their core beliefs.
How to make your workplace more inclusive
Achieving gender equality in employment means adopting a different mindset, no matter how liberal you believe your own views to be. Unless you’re currently enjoying a workplace gender split that’s somewhere close to 50-50 at all levels of seniority, your organisation may need to address various processes and hiring practices to increase diverse representation within your business.
1.Do the maths
Begin by analysing the scale of the problem within your own organisation and wider market place. The diversity split in your business should represent the diversity of the overall talent pool. Businesses cannot rely solely on inbound applications and must do more to identify, attract and hire diverse talent. Work out gender percentages across your business as a whole, and in individual departments. If these do not align to broader market data then using market insight tools such as Elements Intelligence can help shed some light on where more diverse talent pools exist.
2. Review your hiring process
Achieving an inclusive workplace won’t happen overnight, and hiring processes are often a less-obvious hurdle to overcome. Countless business leaders and HR departments have created job adverts they believe to be gender-neutral, only to find they’re still hiring a disproportionate amount of men.
For many employers, gender bias is unintentional, and happens subconsciously. Making steps to address these biases may be as simple as balancing representation of hiring panels, balancing gender-related pronouns or avoiding predominantly-masculine language.
A growing number of employers have introduced AI software as a method of sifting through candidates, in an attempt to remove any unconscious bias from the process. Business leaders should be aware that AI might actually be hindering attempts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Set up a diversity team within your organisation, and make sure it’s represented by all levels of your business – not to mention having an inclusive set-up. Ask them to review your job adverts and to recommend alternative wording where necessary. Tools such as textio.com can also support using gender neutral language. For more information, see our article on how to remove gender bias from your recruitment process.
3.Introduce training & awareness
An inclusive workplace needs an inclusive culture. Training and awareness days should be introduced for all, regardless of age or position held. There needs to be a climate where all feel safe in speaking up and any instances of prejudice are dealt with.
Such a company culture also needs to be promoted in job adverts, staff handbooks and the onboarding period and adhered to in practice throughout the employee lifecycle. Seek regular feedback from your employees regarding the workplace climate, and consider keeping it anonymous in order to secure more honest responses.
4.Offer perks that are genuinely useful
Workplace perks can offer a point of difference between one business and another. Try to introduce inclusivity into your own benefits package. Instead of the usual gym membership, pension plan and free beer on Friday afternoons, consider perks that will be genuinely useful to all genders, including those with children.
These could include flexible hours, childcare vouchers, or time off for things that matter to each individual. No one should be discriminated against for having a family, and workplaces need to enable mothers and fathers to achieve a healthy work-life balance. By levelling the playing field at home, more equity can be reached in the workplace.
5.Don’t wait for complaints
Don’t introduce a policy of inclusivity and expect it to run by itself. Regularly review your processes and seek advice from your diversity team on all matters and create a programme of education to ensure expectations are set properly. Good practice must be modelled by leadership and any instances of discrimination should be dealt with formally, with a procedure in place for this.
Remember, it’s not always easy for those who have experienced discrimination to speak up. Utilising a purely reactive strategy and relying on employees to report incidents shows a lack of dedication to the cause.
As a society, we’re still a long way from eradicating gender discrimination in our workplaces. Better, more successful working cultures can only be achieved through a collective change of vision. The transformation to an inclusive workplace needs to fit in with your business’s overall philosophy, with a long-term commitment to a future that everyone can be part of.