5 Signs Your Workplace May Be Leaving Women Behind and How To Fix It

Laurie Minott

Author

Note: this blog has been adapted for an Australian audience from the original piece on the Great Place To Work US site. 

 

In Australia, recent data shows that the participation rate of men in the labour force has decreased to 71.1% and women have experienced a slight increase to 62.7% as of October 2023. Despite this improvement, there remains a substantial gap between men and women in workforce participation. 

This provides a picture of the state of diversity and inclusion in the country’s workplaces: while great strides have been made in including and empowering women at work, continuous efforts must be done. 

When doing so, it is crucial to examine the subtle yet telling signs that might indicate an organisation is unintentionally leaving women behind. Recognising these indicators is the first step towards fostering a workplace where women thrive alongside their male counterparts. This article delves into the signs that a workplace may be falling short on gender equity and provides a roadmap for improvement. 

 

Honoured, excited and a bit anxious – those were the first three emotions I had when I was asked to join a group that had been working together to solve an important healthcare issue facing their association. My boss, Elaine, told me ‘…with your knowledge and background, I think you would be of great value to the group.’ 

I was early in my career – ambitious, hardworking, and excited to learn and contribute to meaningful work. This was right up my alley, I thought. 

But when I walked into our first meeting, my niggling anxiety overtook my excitement. A group of men arrived and began chatting with each other about the football game the night before. 

When we all took our seats around a large table, I could see that I was the only woman among 12 men who had been working together for years.   

At every meeting for months, I tried to speak up. Tried to contribute. But more and more, I felt like an outsider. I beat myself up for it. Maybe I should network more one-on-one with members. Maybe I should watch football or take up golf to have more common ground. Maybe I am not assertive enough. 

I knew they weren’t purposely trying to exclude me, yet I still felt as though I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel like my voice mattered and I slowly began to disengage and withdraw – just the opposite of how I showed up and contributed in every other aspect of my work. And it felt awful. 

When someone doesn’t feel they belong, they don’t feel free to contribute their ideas, and those magnificent ideas stay bottled up. 

None of us wake up in the morning with the intent to create this experience. In fact, many of us put in an enormous amount of effort to prevent this from happening because we know thatinnovation flows from diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. But too often, inequity slips into the workplace without us even realising it. 

 

Signs your organisation may be leaving women behind: 

There are often subtle indicators that an issue requires greater attention. Some are more obvious than others, but things to look out for include: 

  1. How diverse are your meetings?

When you walk into a meeting room or start a Zoom call, whether it’s a leadership team meeting, a committee meeting or a working team meeting, is it a diverse composition of people that includes a balance of both men and women? 

  1. What does employee turnover look like?

Are women leaving the company at a disproportionate rate to men? 

  1. Is there a trend in your promotions?

Do women get promoted at a comparable rate to men? 

  1. How vocal are women in meetings?

Do you see and observe women speaking up? Do they appear engaged? Are their ideas and input being heard and considered in decisions? 

  1. Do your benefits skew to some?

Is your company flexible and supportive to those with caregiving responsibilities? Do you offer flexible work arrangements and programs that support those balancing child/elder care responsibilities so they can fully contribute to the organisation? 

 

5 steps to improve gender equity in the workplace: 

  1. Measure and monitor the numbers

I worked with a CEO who was one of the biggest advocates for women. Half of his executive team was made up of women and as a result, he didn’t believe that his organisation had a gender parity issue.

But none of usreally know until we look at the data.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce has been very transparent about his surprise at finding a lack of pay parity after three hard years of tackling this issue. To this end,Salesforce conducts an annual pay auditand makes adjustments to close gaps every year. And Marc challenges every CEO to do the same.

 

Indicators for gender equity and inclusion in the workplace 

    • Gender distribution by leadership level
      Are leadership roles at every level of your organisation evenly held by men and women? This is an essential measure. Leadership makes most of the company decisions. To ensure diverse perspectives, every level within an organisation needs to be diverse. When this happens, people across the organisation can see someone like them, which inspires them to give their best and believe that their voice will also be heard.

 

    • Salary by role, by gender
      Are pay levels consistent by role regardless of which gender occupies them? Organisations instil a sense of trust and respect when they pay and treat everyone fairly, regardless of gender.

 

    • Turnover by gender
      Are you losing more women disproportionately than men? While a lagging indicator, Turnover may signal a need to evaluate your workplace environment and whether all people believe they can fully contribute. During the pandemic, more women than men have left the workplace to care for families. Do your organisation’s programs effectively support working parents?
       
    • Promotions by gender
      Promotion data is another essential measure of how well your programs and practices ensure everyone has the opportunity for advancement.Are you promoting people based on their tenure or hours logged instead of their contributions? Is your system excluding women from mentoring opportunities or exposure to senior leadership? You might need to rethink howfair the path to promotionsis at your company.
       
    • Employee feedback
      Employee surveys, interviews and focus groups provide real-time insights that enable you to gauge progress and opportunity. Six statements in ourTrust Index™ surveymonitor gender parity on more than just tangible gaps such as pay – they explore elements of psychological safety and total wellbeing, too. 

 

  1. Lead listening tours

Get curious about the experience of women in your workplace – both what the experience is like at its best and the challenges that get in the way. Gather ideas and feedback on how it can be improved. Actively involve women in your organisation in developing solutions and monitoring progress. 

  1. Raise awareness through transparency

Elevate awareness by being transparent about how the organisation is performing with the measures listed above. Among Best Workplaces™, CEOs who take a strong stance and speak openly about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) are the most successful. 

When it is a true priority to a CEO, they talk about it, they recognise and communicate the business imperative, and as a result, the organisation rallies around this priority. 

  1. Turn empathy into action

Taking a public stand on DEIB is important, but Best Workplaces™ go further than statements of commitment. These companies take an in-depth look at their practices, culture and leadership, and use that knowledge to make tangible changes, whether that’s directly addressinggender pay imbalancesor moreleadership development opportunities for women. 

In my own case, I knew that each of the men I was working with had only the best intentions. They went out of their way to try to have more diversity of thought, with the understanding that as a group of 12 men, they needed it. 

But as shown by my experience, and the experiences of so many other working women, intent isn’t enough. Measurement, transparency, communication and action are the keys to delivering real DEIB results in the workplace. 

Measure gender equity in your workplace
 

For more information or help on your DEIB journey,contact us abouthow to measure gender equity in your workplace with our survey and analysis tool,Emprising™. 

 

Laurie Minott

Author

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