• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Gender inequality

Gender inequality

Welcome to another weekend. They seem to come so thick and fast that it leaves heads spinning. This week is International Women’s week because it houses the international women’s day. So I will be speaking about gender inequality in the work place.

Subconsciously gender inequality affects all females. It influences what we choose to study, the jobs we do, how we share unpaid work at home and our economic security. Therefore, gender inequality at work begins at school.

Children in primary school already define jobs as belonging to ‘boys’ or ‘girls’ . In secondary school, girls are more likely than boys to opt out of intensive maths. This prevents them from pursuing further study in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We are less likely to pursue careers in STEM, construction and finance. Men are less likely to pursue careers in nursing, early childhood education, and aged and disability care.

There is a gender pay gap which is influenced by the following. A lack of women in senior leadership positions to champion the course. There is discrimination in hiring and pay decisions. Poorly structured labour laws. A lack of flexible work hours and affordable childcare.

Barriers to employment for single mothers, women with a disability and women from culturally diverse backgrounds. Last but not least and not final is sexism, sexual harassment, bullying and workplace violence against women.

Women do more than twice the amount of unpaid work in the home than men. This can include caring for children, the elderly and other family members. It includes but not limited to cleaning, cooking, transportation and childcare. To juggle this unpaid work with paid work, women are far more likely than men to be in low-paid, insecure or casual work.

Many women who stay at home doing this unpaid but skilled work (the informal workforce) then find it difficult entering the formal workforce or are badly paid if they enter.

Being paid less or even not at all means that women have less money and so command less influence. Without influence they cannot change anything. Herein lies the catch 22 situation. This also puts older women at greater risk of poverty and homelessness than men.

To achieve gender equality, the gender pay gap needs to be closed. We can do this by increasing the representation of women in senior leadership roles and ensuring safe and respectful workplaces. Also, the women working in the unpaid informal jobs, should be recognised, and renumerated for their roles.

There are steps that managers can take to eliminate gender inequality in organizations, everyone can have unconscious biases and prejudices about people or groups. Offer implicit bias training to managers to make them aware of these hidden biases towards minorities (women) so that they can actively avoid discriminatory behaviour and make more informed decisions to promote gender equality.

Diverse interviewers can be appointed who will implement longer shortlists to hire more women in top positions. Research shows that an extended shortlist of candidates for open positions creates more gender diversity because it pushes managers to think beyond the gender stereotypes associated with a role. HRM should be trained on how to make these types of longer shortlists when hiring, especially for male-dominated roles, so that more women get recruited in top positions.

Organisations should ensure interviewer diversity when reviewing résumés and conducting interviews. Research shows that women are more attracted to roles when they see that the interviewer is a woman.

Companies should conduct audits to ensure that men and women in the same roles get paid equally. Use the findings to adjust salaries and close any gender wage gaps. This should also be transparent.

The pandemic has proven that remote work is equally, if not more, productive. Provide flexibility in when and where employees can work. For women, this flexibility in work hours can prove to be a “critical enabler” of retention in the workforce because it allows them to maintain a work-life balance. However, if your organization follows a hybrid model, beware of falling prey to presenteeism, where men who choose to go to an office may be more ‘visible’ at work and therefore disproportionately rewarded.

Read also: Sub-Saharan Africa is bridging gender gap in project mgt – Survey

Organisations should provide women with opportunities to learn new skills and become more tech-savvy. Prioritizing women’s advancement has many benefits for organizations, too, including high revenue growth, more innovation, and increased customer satisfaction.

Women were disproportionately affected by Covid-19, and coaching empowers them to stay and advance in the workforce. But there is a gender gap in access to coaching, too. Provide women with regular coaching sessions so they can build skills and develop the mindsets they need to thrive, especially in leadership roles.

At any given time, 55% of the workforce is languishing. Organisations need to make mental fitness part of the company culture by modelling empathy and training managers to be more empathetic. Offer personalized support to meet women where they are at and help them grow in their careers.

Give employees scheduled time to participate in mentoring programs. Mentoring programs benefit the mentor as much as the protégée, according to a recent study. Provide opportunities for women to take up mentoring positions because it helps them see themselves as leaders and role models.

Finally, paid time off to nurture a new child has immense health and career benefits. Establish generous policies for maternity leave, with a minimum of four months. Provide separate parental leave for fathers to encourage men to take time off and share in household responsibilities as well as let women back into the workforce. This may be a tall order in this country.