Every March, organizations around the world commemorate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day (March 8) by highlighting the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. These two annual events also underscore the year-round importance of removing barriers to attracting and retaining women leaders and fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace.
7 actions that promote gender diversity and equality in the workplace include:
1. Eliminating gender bias
According to research by LeanIn.org, gender bias is pervasive: “73% of women experience bias at work — yet less than a third of employees are able to recognize bias when they see it. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted and negatively impacts their day-to-day work experiences.”
Some common examples are assuming a woman with small children won’t take on extra assignments or always asking a woman to be the notetaker in meetings. Ongoing education, training and communication can help employees and managers recognize and challenge bias in policies, practices, decisions and interactions.
2. Preventing sexual harassment
Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a common problem, whether employees are onsite, working remotely or in a hybrid model. Since the #MeToo movement, a growing number of states have passed laws that require employers to conduct sexual harassment prevention training. The list includes New York State, New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware and certain industries in Washington State. Every organization that is serious about DEI understands the link between preventing sexual harassment and creating a respectful, inclusive workplace.
3. Recognizing microaggressions
Interrupting female coworkers during meetings, calling women ‘girls’ or ‘honey’ and belittling the contributions of women are examples of microaggressions. These subtle slights, snubs or insults may appear to be harmless, but they perpetuate stereotypes and contain hidden negative messages, which often stem from unconscious biases. Teaching employees and managers how to identify and respond to different types of microaggressions can help individuals be more aware of their behavior and its harmful effects on others.
4. Providing flexible working arrangements
Especially in the COVID-19 era, when the lines between work and home life have blurred, organizations can support women by offering flexible working arrangements and providing other services and resources to help them stay in the workforce and thrive in their careers.
5. Establishing allyship and mentorship programs
Starting allyship and mentoring programs and maintaining Employee Research Groups offer a vital source of support for underrepresented employees to pursue opportunities to develop skills and take on leadership roles. Especially at a time when so many more employees are working remotely, these programs help boost morale, engagement and foster a sense of belonging.
6. Promoting a culture of empathy and respect
The concept of empathy — the ability to listen, think and imagine how a person may be experiencing the world — has become central to tackling unconscious bias and creating a culture in which members of marginalized or underrepresented groups feel they are heard and valued.
7. Encouraging employees to speak out
In addition to having a formal complaint process and procedures for reporting incidents of harassment, bias and other toxic behaviors, organizations should support different ways for employees to raise questions and provide honest feedback, without fear of retaliation.
Every March, International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month commemorate the contributions of women in all facets of society. As part of a year-round strategy to improve DEI, these annual events can inspire organizations and their employees to create a more inclusive culture in which everyone has an opportunity to advance and thrive.
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