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Women’s History Month: A Chance to Make Equity a Reality
Throughout my conversations with people in the world of work, I hear these questions every March — about the time we start celebrating Women’s history month:
Why still this fuss about Women’s History Month?
Why isn’t there a Men’s History Month?
And why do we need to attach gender to history?
And, no, the people asking these questions aren’t always men. In fact, I have known women who were not exactly proactive about championing other women in the workplace or the workforce. Regardless of who asks, though, there is typically a noticeable pause among the women that witness these conversations. Also typical: Not too many of us women actually speak up when people ask these questions.
Are we tired of advocating for what should already be a given? Or do we need new weapons in our arsenal to combat the same old problems — and some new issues — in more effective ways?
Designed to create a new way of answering generations-old questions, here are a few ways to improve your workplace — and your recruiting methods. The over-arching goal: Make the world of work better for everyone, including women.
Remove Bias in Written Form
In all industries, gender-coded language is alive and well in job descriptions and postings. Our intent may be to write engaging descriptions — but in the process, we inadvertently discourage women applicants. For example, we still seek “assertive” and “dominant” team members that play well in “competitive” and “fast-paced” environments (all predominantly male stereotypes).
While often a notorious offender of bias itself, HR technology has produced some highly effective digital tools to help. Augmented writing platforms (like Textio) and gender decoding software (like the free Gender Decoder) can seek and scrub bias and help bolster descriptions with engaging yet equitable language.
Adjust Family Leave Policies
Better family leave policies can solve five fundamental problems:
- Eases the pressure on working women forced to make a tough choice
- Removes the burdensome misbelief that child care is women’s work
- Allows fathers to fully participate in child, pet and elderly care
- Better supports same-sex families
- Better reflects Millennial and Gen-Z values and expectations
According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials and Generation-Z believe in shared domestic responsibilities across genders. Companies that only provide maternity leave — as opposed to paternity or family leave — are seen as retrogressive. For employers, this is not a good look when attracting top talent under the age of 38.
Consider the Pandemic-Related Burdens Placed on Women
The pandemic has been brutal on many people, particularly women. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, according to recent findings by McKinsey:
- Since the COVID-19 crisis began, women’s jobs have been 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs
- Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses
Data shows these trends are even worse for women of color, who are more likely to work in service industries greatly impacted by the pandemic and are more likely to be called upon to be primary caretakers in multi-generational households. In addition, women of color are more likely to contract the virus itself and are more likely to be hospitalized, causing further work loss.
Just like adjusting family leave policies can level the playing field for women, employers can also help those women impacted by the pandemic by encouraging and enabling male employees to step up.
Conduct a Pay Equity Audit
I’ve been saying this for years, and I’m going to repeat it now: We have a moral imperative to pay all people, including women, fairly.
Fortunately, not doing so now has significant legal consequences for organizations. Lawmakers across the US are writing pay equity laws; as a result, companies with global affiliates or branches will need to pay closer attention to gender pay gaps.
There are also countless ways to define equal pay for equal work or comparable pay for comparable work. But the only way to achieve true pay equity for all traditionally disadvantaged groups is to take a long, hard look at the realities of how and what organizations pay their people. Again, technology is our friend — and we now have more robust analytics than ever before. Don’t, though, settle for just throwing tech at the problem and coming up with some executive report that never sees the light of day. Instead, make the report known to your employees. At the same time, describe precisely how your company will resolve any issues discovered.
Remember: Transparency = Truth.
These are just four ways to ensure we recruit, treat, and pay women equally in the workplace. Until we incorporate these ideas and so many more just like them, each designed to provide a true sense of equity for women, the world will continue to need Women’s History Month.
Editors’ Note: This is Women’s History Month. Each March, we commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. To learn more, click here.