Why Gender Equality In The Workplace Is Good For Business
By Doris Lam
We’ve all heard the saying that women make about 80 cents for every dollar men earn. Even in Hollywood, high profile stars such as Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman are making headlines over salary discrepancies when compared to their male co-stars.
Gender inequality in the workplace doesn’t stop at the wage gap either. Women are often under-represented in executive positions, often times forced to choose between family and work life. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2018 report, only 17 countries out of 149 surveyed currently have women as head of state.
In a world where half of the population is constantly being overlooked and undermined, companies are missing out on the opportunity to build a stronger workplace.
Here are just a few of the reasons why gender equality in the workplace is good for business:
Companies that avoid hiring female employees (whether intentionally or not) have a smaller talent pool to choose from, causing them to miss out on candidates that would have been ideal for the role.
Placing women in leadership positions not only creates a more equal dynamic in the boardroom, but can also empower other female employees to speak up during team discussions and meetings.
This doesn’t just apply to gender, whether it’s appealing to an older group of customers, different religions, pregnant women, or to the LGBTQ community, a diverse working environment with employees of different races, genders and ages means an increase in perspectives and ideas when tackling problems as a team, therefore improving overall productivity in the workplace.
Thanks to social campaigns and hashtags such as HeForShe, MeToo and TimesUp, gender equality has become a major priority for many. Job-seekers now look for companies with a more diverse employee base to make them feel safer and more comfortable in the workplace.
Recently, JPMorgan Chase made headlines after having to pay a USD$5 million dollar settlement after telling a male employee that he could not be his child’s “primary caregiver” because of his gender. This damaged the bank’s reputation as a progressive, inclusive and family-friendly employer, which could ultimately cause a drop in potential clients and prohibit employees from seeking roles at the company in the future.
Retain Customers And Attract New Ones
The reputation of your business can make or break your company. Creating a diverse environment with employees from different genders, ages, and races will improve communication between customers and the company, setting your business apart from competitors.
Popular streaming website, Netflix, is able to retain its customers (and effectively rule the watching world) by understanding what customers want by collecting personalised data and then producing original content that reflects customers’ responses. Companies that can effectively communicate, understand and empathise with their broad customer base are able to build loyalty and attract new users.
Boost Staff Retention
Studies show that it costs 20 percent of the annual salary to replace a mid-range employee and 213 percent to replace an employee in an executive position. Factoring in the cost of advertising, interviewing, hiring, training and managing, retaining talent is by far a more cost-effective option than hiring a new employee.
Maintaining staff satisfaction goes beyond salary, benefits and training. A comfortable work environment and culture is just as important. You can support gender equality in the workplace by providing equal job opportunities, joining gender equality campaigns, leading workshops on workplace boundaries, and implementing a zero-tolerance policy against sexual discrimination to help employees feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.
Strengthen Work Relationships
In decades past, gender stereotypes are passed on through childhood, causing men and women to develop different communication styles. According to a study published in the Journal of Humanities and Social Science on communicational approaches of men and women at the workplace, women get things done at work by building relationships and tend to talk to other people when a problem occurs while men are less likely to do so.
Having a mixture of genders at the office encourages stronger working relationships, making it easier to collaborate on projects, share ideas and find solutions. Poor employee relationships and conflict can affect work processes, organisational culture and create stress between colleagues, resulting in a less productive workplace.
Gender equality is not only the ethical thing to do but will also improve and strengthen your business in the long run. While there is a long road ahead in order to close the gender gap, creating a safe working environment, challenging stereotypes, offering equal opportunities for all genders, and being transparent about wages, are small steps in the right direction for gender equality in the workplace.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.