Men can help bridge the gender equality gap at work
Warren Buffet hit the nail on the head when he addressed the issue of men and women in the workplace. He facetiously attributed his success to the fact that he only had to compete with the male half of the population. Even though there has been considerable progress towards gender equality over the past five decades, women still remain in the minority when it comes to Congressional seats and business boardrooms.
However, recent signs indicate that the status quo many finally be changing. Since 1970, the rising numbers of women in the workforce have significantly grown the US economy. In fact, according to research done at McKinsey & Company, they’ve added value equivalent to the combined GDP of California, Illinois, and New York.
Giving women the tools they need to excel at your company provides you with a competitive edge as well as the moral upper ground in terms of gender equality. True there are differences between men and women. However, mapping out a plan to make the change is a challenge.
Keep in mind that making your workplace a better one for women doesn’t only come from the office of the CEO. Men can chip in to change gender equality issues by using these six tips:
1. Think of women as leaders
When I was young, I was on a team that called one of our colleagues our “team mom.” It was meant kindly. However, looking back on it, I realize that placing that label on her restricted her to a more confined, supporting role on the project. Since it’s the leaders who occupy critical roles on projects that are offered promotions and management positions, this is one reason that many women can’t move past support. Instead, create an environment where women naturally take on roles that will stretch their abilities. Overall performance increases when diverse members of a team have an opportunity to share their skills in a productive way.
Sit quietly at the next meeting you attend to see who is interrupting who. You can change the dynamics if you find that women are most often the ones who are cut off mid-speech. Simply state you are interested in what she has to say and ask her to continue speaking. By creating a more open atmosphere, she will grow in her role, the team environment will improve, and your leadership abilities will become apparent.
2. Give women the credit they deserve
Men aren’t afraid of taking credit for their work. However, women can be more likely to be disparaging their own contributions. At work, the accomplishments of men are more likely to be celebrated than the accomplishments of their female counterparts. According to research done at NYU, men get more credit for team successes than women do.
3. Create mentor programs for women
Because there are fewer women working at senior management levels, there simply aren’t enough female mentors available for women early in their careers. To change this, men need to mentor women as well as other men. Put a bug in the ear of your human resources department to start a mentorship program if your company hasn’t already set one up. Mentors make a huge difference.
4. Request bias training for your team
Most people believe that men and women are created equal and find it hard to believe that women must overcome more obstacles for success in the workplace. Close up, it’s hard to see the problem. We learn our biases at a very young age. Girls get dolls while boys are given action figures for their birthdays. These gender biases are remarkably persistent. Who hasn’t heard an assertive woman called bossy while an assertive man is praised? During performance evaluations, strong women may be marked down because they aren’t as “likeable” as more passive female employees.
5. Consider the focus of your business’ social events
Most businesses try to arrange social activities to help foster a better sense of teamwork. However, if they only cater to a small group of individuals, they may be doing the opposite. To create a more welcoming environment, keep the total population of the workplace in mind.
6. Family talk should be encouraged
Does your company provide solid support to its employees when it comes to family matters? Start asking and you might find that you could be doing more. In fact, you might find that men will speak up about the support that they need at home. One group started a forum to help men get through early fatherhood and still keep up at the workplace.
These tips can help create a better, more equal workplace and should be considered by all in the business.