When women succeed in the workplace, everyone benefits. Bloomberg Business has found that companies with gender-diverse boards perform better in challenging markets, and The Atlantic claims that companies with female CFOs are less likely to engage in tax evasion and corporate fraud. And, according to a landmark report from Goldman Sachs JBWere, closing the gender gap in the workplace would boost Australia’s GDP by 11 per cent. However, women often have to work harder than their male counterparts to work their way up to leadership positions. Among those women who make it to the top of the corporate ladder, the majority of them are helping other women get ahead in the workplace, but there are steps we can all take to achieve gender equality in the workplace.
First, we should educate ourselves and others about unconscious bias, which leads to the perpetuation of sexist tropes. Sexism in the modern workplace can often be subtle, but it still prevents women from getting ahead. We know that we expect our leaders to be strong, assertive, and confident, but when women display these traits they are often viewed negatively in the workplace. Educating and empowering colleagues to call out and combat bias is a highly effective means of eliminating bias in the workplace.
We can also make it a habit to collaborate and share with each other at work. If you have a great idea, ask a female colleague to develop it with you. Recognize the accomplishments of junior women in group emails, staff meetings, or wherever it is appropriate. You’ll help them gain recognition for their hard work, and this gracious action will reflect well on you - everyone wins!
Those in senior positions should consider mentoring and sponsoring younger or less established women in their field. Mentoring can take many forms, including inviting more junior women to lunches where they can openly discuss their career goals, or sharing your own tips for success in your field. Sponsoring goes a step further than mentoring, and involves talking up younger women who show potential so they can have a go at high-profile projects, or even get raises and promotions. While mentoring can be extremely helpful, women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored. If you notice a younger employee’s potential, make sure to talk her up to others in addition to encouraging her one-on-one.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do to help women in the workplace is advocating for woman-friendly policies. Maternity leave helps women retain work-life balance, but paternal leave is equally important, as it allows fathers to share the burden of caring for their children. Women often face illegal discrimination for taking maternity leave, so in addition to providing paternal leave, we need for men to actually take family leave, setting the example that employees should not be punished for doing so, regardless of gender.
Finally, if you’re in a position to speak on behalf of your company, publicise your commitment to gender equality in the workplace. You’ll attract better talent, since people will want to work for a company they perceive as fair, and you’ll serve as a role model for other businesses. Contributing to a culture where gender equality is the norm can only be good for business.