5 Ways Managers Can Drive Gender Equity in the Workplace

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EmbraceEquity. In 2023, equity within the workplace (and beyond) isn’t just a ‘nice to have,’ it’s essential.

Gender equity is a systemic issue, therefore every member of every organisation has a responsibility to help create lasting change. However, as managers, it’s even more important to initiate this change and encourage your teams to follow your lead toward greater gender equity in the workplace.

Let’s start with understanding what exactly gender equity is…

What Is Gender Equity?

Though the words are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between equality and equity.

Equality means that each person or group of people is given the same opportunities, resources, and experiences, while equity goes a little deeper. It recognises that every person has their own unique circumstances, and provides the exact opportunities, resources, and experiences needed in order to reach an equal outcome.

If we give everyone the same thing and expect that will make them equal, it assumes everyone is starting from the same place. We know this can’t work because everyone isn’t the same. In other words, equity can be defined as giving everyone what they need to be successful.

So, while equality is the goal, equity is the means to get there.

Equity In the Workplace

Over the years, there has been a general commitment to gender equality by establishing procedures and policies to support women and their progress in the workplace.

While this shift has helped many women gain traction at work, with many entering what were once male-dominated industries and many more entering leadership roles, women still face gender-based discrimination. This gender bias (conscious or unconscious) has stemmed from outdated, yet deeply engrained values, traditions, and culture.

Truly embracing equity means forging new and inclusive work cultures where women’s careers can truly thrive, and where their achievements are duly celebrated and rewarded.

Why Gender Equity is Important

It’s no surprise that organisations that treat people fairly and offer equal opportunity have employees with higher performance rates, less burnout, and successful working relationships.

In order for women to feel included and appreciated (as well as respected) in the workplace, employers, managers and employees alike need to embrace equity.

Countless studies show that boosting gender equity and diversity in the workplace not only benefits businesses and their bottom lines but also the lives of the people within the organisations.

5 Ways Managers Can Drive Gender Equity in The Workplace

Equity is a long-term solution for addressing imbalanced social systems. It takes into account the diverse lived experiences of people and adapts policies according to these differences.

To help create change, managers should both exemplify and encourage their teams to speak up against discrimination when they see it, draw attention to unconscious gender bias, and seek out inclusion wherever possible.

Here are a few ways you can better foster gender equity in your team…

1. Make Diverse Hiring a Priority

Try to be as mindful as possible in your recruitment process. This includes creating accurate and inclusive job descriptions, sourcing a gender (and neuro) diverse list of candidates, and conducting fair interviews – free of any conscious or unconscious bias. It may help to include someone else in this process to help keep you accountable. 

2. Ensure Workplace Flexibility

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that most jobs can be performed flexibly. This flexibility has enabled women (and men) to better balance the demands of their home life with their jobs. Ensure all the employees under your management are aware of your company’s parental leave and caregiving policies, as well as flexible, remote and hybrid working policies. How can you actively find (and introduce) the perfect working solution for your team members to be able to thrive amidst their work/life juggle. Many women shy away from asking about these arrangements for fear that it will be held against them.

3. Ensure Workplace Wellbeing

According to a 2022 McKinsey & Company report, compared with men, women reported higher rates of burnout, chronic stress and exhaustion. This is largely because many women are still responsible for larger amounts of unpaid work within their home and personal lives.

As a manager, you can help alleviate some of this stress for your female (and all) employees by:

  • Encourage open, non-judgmental communication so that employees feel comfortable talking to you about their stressors
  • encouraging a culture of wellbeing (ensuring that employees are taking their full lunch breaks, are able to attend important appointments, aren’t taking on or being burdened by too much work, etc.)
  • having regular mental health check-ins/1-1s
  • highlighting company benefits such as backup care, coaching, counselling, vouchers for helpful services, etc.

4. Ensure Fair Promotion Procedures

Create fair, equitable and transparent pathways to career growth and promotions for everyone on your team. This means not allowing their gender or circumstances outside of work to affect their career opportunities. It may seem obvious, but everyone on your team should receive equal pay for equal work. These are two easy wins which create equity, as well as retain talent.

5. Provide Development Opportunities

In order to attract, support, and promote more women leaders, it’s important to provide opportunities to help them grow throughout their careers. As a manager, ask yourself: how can I mentor, upskill and offer/provide training to my team? These are some of the ways you can make the most of your diverse talent pool and help each member of your team reach their full potential under your care and guidance.