Women’s roles in business have been evolving for generations. As social expectations have shifted and workplaces have become more welcoming to women.
But gaps in pay, treatment, and promotion of women versus their male colleagues are still extremely noticeable. With issues that go well beyond the gender pay gap, the future of business has to look closely at the future of gender equality.
Even in troubled times, businesses hold a massive amount of sway in our world. The values that they advocate for and support color our view of them and influence what we advocate for. Because of this influence, businesses need to be a driving force in the fight for gender equality.
This starts with addressing workplace culture and wage gaps but extends to investigating their practices as a whole. Companies must consider their hiring and promotional practices, the diversity of their workforce, and what social movements they support.
Women are at the center of change as the evolutions of the gig economy, remote work, and automation take charge of our economy. But women are still underpaid, underrepresented, and under-educated, despite being heavily impacted by changes in employment needs. Now is the time to recognize the effect these changes are already having on women, and turn the tides of employment.
Inequality, Hiring, Payment, and Promotion
In 2018, research showed that women who worked full time were making $0.81 for every dollar that men earned. Similarly, though women held 70 percent of restaurant positions, they only made 79 percent of what their male counterparts did.
According to the 2019 Census, even in industries with the highest salaries, men made over an estimated $130.5K per year, while women made only $71.5K per year. Gaps like this are evident across all industries and have many factors that play into their continuation.
STEM industries are a vital sector right now. With so few women in these industries, however, the growth they are experiencing only increases the gender gap. Gender bias in promotional opportunities is a major contributor, but entering these fields at all is much harder for women than men. This imbalance extends well past the pay gap, and into executive boards that determine the pathway of entire industries.
Medical health professionals are in high demand right now, and almost 80 percent of the workforce is women. You might expect that the decision and policymakers would also be a majority of women. However, while over three-quarters of the field is female, only 21 percent of health boards and executives are women.
With women earning an average of $15K less than men in these fields, it is easy to see how these gaps are perpetuated. Even when women make up the majority of the workforce, promotion to high-level positions is still fraught with barriers.
As STEM positions, in particular, become more and more important to our future, we have an opportunity to change the tides of women in the workplace. Re-education and skill development for women, as well as the implementation of policy reviews, can begin the process.
Businesses will need to be intentional about helping to shift how we bring women into the workplace, to be truly effective. Consider how your company is supporting women’s development and advocating for new opportunities.
How Can Businesses Help With Gender Equality?
With an economy in flux, and the job outlook changing by the day, businesses are in a key position to drive gender equality in their industries. Supporting social organizations that educate women and girls interested in STEM, or by helping their local community and female employees can be a great start.
Emerging businesses can also focus on creating specialized training for women in the workplace. This can include salary negotiation, technical skills, and updated business practices.
Companies stand to benefit from changes that not only help women but create an educated, powerful workforce. Businesses can help change the treatment of women by investing in their employees and focusing on the betterment of women. This also positions them as a forward-thinking company.
1. Hiring for and Building Business Culture
Many companies claim to have an inclusive, supportive culture, but when it comes to focusing on gender equality does that culture hold up?
Investigate how much input is received from female employees. Consider what promotional opportunities they offered, and even the type of gendered language that is used in the office. Once you have begun to focus your culture on being inclusive, make sure that any new hires that you employ are a fit for this new culture.
As you continue to develop your company culture, consider the steps for improvement that have been taken by other companies. Soofa, for example, recently completed its first company-wide census. The census helps the company understand what it needs to do to improve its commitment to inclusivity and gender diversity. This multi-level evaluation will help ensure that you are delivering on your promise of a culture based on equality.
2. Re-Skilling of Oversaturated Positions
With women holding a majority of administrative positions, they are the first to be affected by a digital shift. When creating a structure for your re-skilling efforts, make sure you are focusing on the right areas.
Target departments that have an oversaturation of women, such as admin and HR. This keeps women in the workforce and builds updated skills that can help them transition out of positions that may be lost to automation.
When selecting candidates for promotional opportunities, make sure that women are not only encouraged to apply but are considered just as automatically as their colleagues. This is not only for the benefit of your employees but for your company.
Women in business bring innovation and creative thinking to the table in a way that male-dominated teams simply don’t experience. Research has also shown that women are 3 percent more effective than men as managers. This makes the promotion of women to management and upper-level positions a tactical advantage.
While many industries suffer from a lack of women in high-ranking positions, Amazon has several high-ranking women in their company. Many of their directors and VPs are women, and in 2019, they added two more women to their executive team. While women are still outnumbered three to one, the marketing, fashion, and human resources leaders are all women.
4. Public Support and Involvement
Publicly supporting women and building relationships with organizations that improve women’s access to education and careers is an excellent start. Another step is to actively influence gender equality. This can be done not only in your hiring and promotion practices but with your public brand.
Consider a marketing campaign that addresses toxic masculinity in the office, and how to dismantle it. Or organizing conferences and resources for women in business. These steps can show that you are committed to supporting gender equality, both within your business and within society.
How Do Business Practices Affect Women?
Business practices change the way that women are educated, and promoted within the workplace, and can act as a gateway for women to enter new fields.
By reskilling women in areas that are oversaturated with female employees, companies support women in taking control of their professional development. By doing this, companies not only advocate for a culture of support and equality, but they also follow through on that promise.
The effects of this can be seen in the economy as well. Women who make comparable salaries to men can put money back into women-led businesses and support equality. This economic power allows them to actively influence equality in other industries as well as their own.
Businesses need to step forward and become the driving force in gender equality. They hold control over the pay gap, skill acquisition, promotion, and even education.
The future of business and employment cannot afford to be gender-blind. We live in a society that still experiences the suppression of minority voters, a huge gender pay gap, and a lack of women and minorities in STEM fields. All this still occurs despite the fact that STEM encompasses some of the largest and fastest-growing industries.
Businesses need to be active in supporting the education and promotion of women as the way that we work changes on a day to day basis. It is only by changing business practices that we can begin to see social and economic equality start to take hold.
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Ainsley Lawrence is a writer who loves to talk about good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. She is frequently lost in a good book.