Championing female leaders: Embracing gender equality in the workplace

March marks the beginning of Women’s History Month and the run-up to International Women’s Day. These celebrations serve as a reminder of the strides made towards gender equality while highlighting the work yet to be done. One place that can potentially transform women’s role in society for the better is the workplace.

Nowhere is employment inequality more apparent than in positions of power. Men and women are equally ambitious to climb the corporate ladder: an equal number of men and women under 30 are eager for promotions. However, women only take up 28% of corporate leadership roles. This figure is even lower when only considering women of colour, who hold only 6% of these positions.

This disparity is caused by a myriad of issues, which we will explore in this blog. We will also discuss the important role of HR in fostering intersectionality and gender equality in the workplace. These considerations aim to help organisations embrace diverse perspectives, drive innovation, and cultivate a culture of equality.

Inclusive recruitment

In the pursuit of gender equality, inclusive hiring practices are vital. This is the first place HR professionals can work towards dismantling systemic barriers. This can include conducting gender-neutral job analyses to ensure that job descriptions are free from bias. HR can also implement targeted outreach initiatives to attract a diverse pool of candidates to apply. These approaches also acknowledge intersectionality. This means someone has multiple marginalised characteristics, compounding the possibility of discrimination. For example, 62% of Black women say they have experienced discrimination during the job application process. By being conscious of this, and working to minimise it, you are actively working towards a more supportive workplace.
Providing unconscious bias training for hiring managers and interviewers is also an important step. It can help to mitigate any implicit biases that may influence decision-making. This ensures managers evaluate candidates solely on their skills, qualifications, and potential to contribute to the organisation’s success. But, it is also important that your hiring panel matches the diverse range of people you aim to recruit. This shows potential employees that marginalised people hold power in your organisation. It also creates space for different perspectives during the hiring process.

Creating a supportive workplace

At the heart of championing female leaders lies an inclusive and supportive environment. Traditionally, this has involved promoting women’s leadership programmes, mentorship schemes, and networking opportunities. However, we must address the deeper issues in workplace culture in tandem with these initiatives.

Women’s safety at work

Gender inclusivity means creating a workplace where women feel safe. A 2023 Deloitte survey found that 44% of women experienced harassment and/or microaggressions in the workplace. Microaggressions are classed as an indirect or subtle form of discrimination. For women, this might mean comments about their emotional state or even being mistaken for a junior member of staff. This is even more common for women of colour. Because microaggressions are often dismissed as ‘banter’ with little impact, women are also less likely to report issues to their employers than in previous years.

To create a place where women feel safe, HR professionals should educate their workforce. Training on workplace conduct and gender equality can help employees to become active allies for their female co-workers. It’s also important for HR to implement solid protocols for incident reporting. This will hopefully encourage women to come forward with any issues they’re having. By implementing these initiatives, HR departments can foster an environment where women feel secure and valued. For businesses, they help in compliance with legal obligations and demonstrate a commitment to human rights and equality.

Flexible working

Although the world appears to have become more egalitarian, outdated values continue to thrive in domestic spaces. Despite most women now working full-time, a UCL study found that women do more housework than their male partners in 93% of British households. Sociologists have nicknamed this the “second shift.” Male partners expect women to complete certain tasks like cooking, laundry, and unpaid childcare. This rarely changes regardless of their working status.

Although HR departments can’t change employees’ home lives, they can support them through working arrangements. By creating flexible and family-friendly working policies, HR can help alleviate this burden.

Encouraging women in leadership

This Women’s History Month, let us reaffirm our commitment to championing female leaders. By harnessing the full potential of women’s talent and leadership, we drive organisational success and contribute to a more equitable and prosperous society. As catalysts for change, HR professionals have a unique opportunity to lead by example and empower female leaders to realise their full potential. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us recommit ourselves to building a future where gender equality is not just a goal but a reality.

Laura Lee image
Written by : Laura Lee

Laura’s role as Head of Marketing sees her continually looking for new opportunities to tell the world how great Phase 3 is.

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