Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. And achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only due to matters of fairness and morality but because it’s also linked to a country’s overall economic performance. While we’ve made huge strides in improving equality in the workplace since 1975 when the Sex Discrimination Act began to be introduced into law, we still have a way to go.
Two-thirds (64%) of mothers are still the primary carers for their children, compared to just a third (36%) of fathers (source) meaning the majority are at a disadvantage when it comes to things like fixed working hours and lack of flexibility in the workplace and career progression.
Here are three things that need to be done to create fairer workplaces.
Closing the gender pay gap
Paying wages based on a person’s gender has been against the law for almost fifty years- so how, and why, does a gender pay gap still exist? In many cases, it’s because of the types of jobs men and women do within the companies they work for. If the majority of men are performing the jobs then a pay gap will exist, even if men and women are being paid the same for comparatively similar roles. To close this we need to be designing policies, systems and environments that help to take the bias out of the workplaces. We can do this by putting more emphasis on a flexible workplace culture, which enables women to manage the care commitments of children and other relatives along with their careers.
Eliminating gender-biased language in job ads
Research has shown that gendered language can put people off applying for certain jobs. Many words are associated with masculine or feminine stereotypes, which can unconsciously influence the jobs people apply for. In typically male-dominant jobs, these types of ads can further throw off the balance. Job ads should avoid words and phrases that express assumptions about what “normal” gender roles should be; examples of these are ‘male nurse’, ‘female CEO’, ‘working mother’ and ‘chairman’.
They should avoid language that presumes inherently masculine or feminine characteristics- perpetuating the idea that women are emotionally driven and compassionate while men are strong, competent, and competitive. Learning to use gender-inclusive language is one way we can tackle unconscious gender bias and promote diversity in our workplaces. Gendered language matters, as words have the power to shape how we think and behave.
Tougher penalties for sexualisation and harassment
While both genders can be subject to sexualisation, harassment and other issues at work, it tends to be more of an issue for females. One study found almost half (42%) of women compared with 15% of men experienced workplace sexual harassment (source).
This can vary significantly based on the industry, with industries and occupations affected by power hierarchies and gender imbalances in the workforce may be more vulnerable to these abuses occurring unchecked. This again can put women off from applying for jobs in certain industries, affecting the gender balance even more. It’s a significant issue that needs tougher penalties for perpetrators to encourage women to apply for and work in areas that may be considered male-dominated.
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