The current problem
Despite the commitment of many industry leaders and company CEOs, women remain largely underrepresented in every level of the corporate structure. For example, in Corporate America, men are estimated to have a 30 percent higher chance of being promoted than women during the early stages of their career. Also, often when negotiating for promotions or wage increases, women receive greater pushback.
That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising to see more stories like the recent case of Carrie Gracie at the BBC– a high profile case tackling the pay gap between men and women in the organisation. But aside from the issue of pay gaps, several more issues undermine the role of women across companies including lack of transparency and lack of commitment of top-level executives to see through solving the problem.
Women in the workplace
Women today have come together to raise their voice, speak about their experiences and fight for their rights and their efforts have never been stronger. Advocacies like the #MeToo Movement have put a certain level of urgency and fearlessness in asking societies to address the challenges that women face like harassment, discrimination and collective gender gap. Additionally, research indicate that if organisations can fulfil the following then there can be more promise in addressing situation of women in their workplace and the gender gap:
- Transparency and trust – there is an evident gap between women and how much they trust their organisation. In fact, a PWC study reveals that women do not trust what their bosses say about pay and promotions. This was demonstrated in Carrie Grace’s situation when the BBC had to make pay disclosures public, only to reveal an “indefensible pay gap between men and women”.
- Strategic support – part of the problem why gender gap still exists in organisations is because leaders fail to follow through with their promise to change things. There is a need for leaders to recognise that someone needs to champion the gender issue in the workplace for it be addressed. In the same way, there should be enough analysis into the role and contributions of men and women to truly crack issues like pay equality.
- Work and life balance – organisations need to understand everyone adjusts to work, family and parenthood. For example, women may need more time for their maternity leave after giving birth while men may require a little less time depending on the situation.
Aside from encouraging organisations to take a different approach to gender discrimination, there should also be a deeper look into trivialising discrimination itself. There have been claims that women don’t get higher level jobs because they don’t apply for them. As Tricia Dawson, a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at Keele University, says:
“We need to be aware that women rarely suffer discrimination because of their individual characteristics but simply because they are women. Focusing on the individual can make it appear that action is being taken – which it might be for their specific circumstance – while really nothing much changes for the group.”
In the same way, we also should not think that this is solely a problem for women. When pushing for gender parity concerns, we also must understand that everyone else is just as affected. For example, excluding men from developing projects to help women can be counterproductive as most social structures remain highly patriarchal. More importantly, we also must think beyond numbers. Adding more women is not entirely the solution but changing the culture can be.