Movements like #MeToo and the rise in awareness and prosecution of sexual assault and harassment in the past year have led many managers to ask what they can do to address lingering inequalities in their own workplaces.
Managers have extraordinary power to either reduce or exacerbate inequality, which means that those willing to pay attention to the process have an opportunity to improve workplace positivity and productivity or to erode it further. Here are tips for promoting and improving gender equality among your team.
Use gender-neutral terms and policies whenever possible.
Instead of “maternity leave,” think “parental leave.” While writing the policy, instead of “mother” or “father,” write “parent.” If you need to specify which parent is giving birth, “birthing parent” provides clarity while recognizing the complexities of gender in a neutral way.
Reconsider job requirements, particularly for senior leadership.
Many women are excluded from seniority not because they lack the skills or ability to lead, but because leadership requirements don’t mesh well with the increased burden women face on the “second shift” of home, family and childcare. For example, requiring 15 years of management experience may automatically disqualify women who left work for a few years to raise young children – and it may not produce more qualified candidates than a 10-year management requirement would.
Be aware of bias.
Unconscious bias exists everywhere, and it can be tough to uproot. For instance, one major symphony tried to eliminate bias by having candidates play their auditions behind a screen – but they kept hiring more men than women. When a carpet was placed on the floor, however, hiring suddenly became 50/50 men and women.
The judges had been responding unconsciously to the sound of female performers’ high heels clicking on the stage: a bias no one had thought to consider at first. Managers who stay vigilant to constant chances for bias can challenge it more effectively.
Build a culture of men standing up for women.
Requiring women to stand up for one another imposes an additional burden on them, and it does little to convince many men of a problem. Instead, build a culture in which male leadership stand up for women. For instance, if a male manager notices that a man on the team is repeating something in a meeting that his female colleague already suggested, say: “Yes, Jan already suggested that.” These types of interventions help build equality by drawing the entire team’s attention to the value of their co-workers as a team, which undermines biases that use gender to assign value.
Build the right team.
If you are looking to hire or promote a manager, be sure you place the right person in the position. Look for a potential manager who can embrace and promote the tips above. Talk to your recruiting partner, share with them your diversity goals and long-term company and department goals. They will be able to help you source, vet and hire the perfect person for your open manager role.
How TERRA Can Help
At TERRA Staffing Group, our recruiters can help you build the workplace environment that brings out the best in every member of your staff. To learn more, contact us today.