Gender Equality: True Inclusion for Women in the Workplace 

August is Women’s Month in South Africa, with 9 August a public holiday commemorating the 1956 march of 20 000 women on the Union Buildings.  Despite huge strides being made in the modern workplace and society at large, real gender equality is very often lacking for all levels and ages of women. For lasting change, inclusion must become an essential component of both an equitable society and the workplace. 

In a 2023 survey by Harvard Business Review, research shows that women face both sexism and ageism in the workplace. Younger female leaders are frequently mistaken for students, trainees, or secretaries. They are perceived as being less mature, less capable, and less credible than their male counterparts. As a result of presumed household duties and family responsibilities, middle-aged female executives are often overlooked and perceived as lacking new ideas and viewpoints. Older women are viewed as no longer relevant and unworthy of progression, training, or mentorship, in contrast to males who are appreciated for their experience and skill. 

Studies have shown that organisations with a strong commitment to gender equality are more likely to be innovative, profitable, and successful. 

As a learning and development organisation offering equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, education, economic circumstances, or age, we have practical ideas on where you can start. 

Answer the question “Is my organisation doing everything possible to promote gender equality?” If you discover that your company is lacking in fair practices and behaviour, here are some actions you can take to instil it in your organisational culture: 

  • Recognise gender bias. Address gender bias by acknowledging that it exists. Conduct a gender bias audit of your organisational policies and develop unconscious bias training for employees. 
  • Stop referring to people based on their gender. When you refer to people based on gender, you reinforce gender stereotypes and make it more difficult for women to be seen as leaders and decision-makers. Instead, focus on people’s skills, experience, and contributions. 
  • Use data to get the real facts. Data is a powerful tool for understanding and addressing gender inequality. Use data to track the representation of women in different roles, salaries, and promotions. Use it to identify areas where there are gaps and develop targeted interventions to address them. 
  • Make gender equality a leadership performance metric. Leaders should be held accountable for creating and maintaining a workplace that is inclusive and equitable for all employees. Make gender equality a key performance indicator for all leaders or create a bonus structure that rewards leaders for achieving gender equity goals. 
  • Provide training on gender equality. Employees should be given the opportunity to learn about gender equality and how to create a more inclusive workplace. Include training as part of new employee orientation and ongoing professional development. 
  • Create shared meaning. Everyone in the organisation should share a common understanding of what it means to be an inclusive and equitable workplace. Create a shared values statement or develop a diversity and inclusion strategy that is aligned with your organisation’s overall goals. 
  • Appreciate diversity. You should celebrate the diversity of your workforce and create a common culture where everyone feels valued and respected. Achieve this by sponsoring diversity and inclusion events or by creating employee resource groups to champion diversity. 
  • Offer equal opportunities. Women should have the same opportunities as men to advance in their careers. Provide equal access to training, development opportunities, and promotions. 
  • Have fair policies for career development. Develop fair policies for career development that are not based on gender. Ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to advance in their careers. 
  • Live the values of true gender equality and inclusion every day. True gender equality is not just about policies and procedures. It is about creating a culture where everyone feels included and respected, regardless of their gender. Challenge gender stereotypes, call out bias, and create a workplace where everyone feels like they belong. 
  • Have systems, policies, procedures to ensure equality and transformation. Your organisation should have systems, policies, and procedures in place to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. This includes anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies, and parental leave policies. 
  • Reward employee behaviour. Honour employees for behaviours that support gender equality, including giving bonuses to employees who mentor or sponsor women and recognise those who speak up against bias. 
  • Support businesses that promote gender equity.

By taking these actions, you will create a workplace where women feel included, respected, and valued. This is not only good for women, but also for business.  

If you are interested in learning more about how to promote gender equality in your workplace, there are many resources available, including: 

For learning and development solutions that will transform your organisation into an environment where everyone is treated equally and fairly, get in touch.

~ © The Learning Development Group

Gender Equality: True Inclusion for Women in the Workplace
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