5 gender equity practices for 2023

It certainly feels like a long time since Y2K. In the 23 years since the new millennium, we’ve experienced two global recessions, transitioned from flip phones to smartphones, fallen in love with Harry Styles, watched Prince Harry fall out of love with the monarchy… and made progress towards gender equity at home and work. However, momentum on the latter stalled during the Covid pandemic when women took on the bulk of childcare, schooling and chores, all while trying to fit in an entire workday from their home “office”. 

We’re nearing the end of Q1 in this new century, so 2023 is the perfect time to ensure we’re on track to hit our gender equity targets. Why?

Diversity is just good business.

Research shows that the broader range of skills and ideas that come from having more women on the c-suite and boards of directors can boost the value of an organisation. A further study from EY found that the increased presence of women on senior leadership teams correlated with increased profits. The benefits aren’t limited to senior leadership positions – we all work better when we’re part of diverse businesses. According to the World Bank, productivity almost doubles when a company eliminates gender discrimination. 

There are proven best practices that can help deliver more profitable and fair workplaces. While these are often multi-year pursuits, in Powrsuit fashion, we’ve broken each down into achievable actions that can be kicked off while we’re all still feeling that new year motivation #noexcuses 💪

1. Hire for diversity

It may be surprising given the influx of diversity programmes, but the recruitment process is still rife with unconscious assumptions and personal biases. Workplaces are often led by men confident in their ability to make objective hiring decisions, but mirrortocracy is still alive and well.

Men are not alone in perpetuating hiring discrimination. In a Harvard study, both male and female managers failed to compensate for a range of deeply ingrained biases and showed a preference for male candidates at every step in the recruitment process. 

The antidote to unconscious bias? Make it conscious. Self-awareness and understanding are a must for any organisation that wants to address its natural preference to reproduce itself in its own image. 

A quick Google will unearth many organisations that provide workplace diversity training to help people better understand their unconscious preferences. Hiring managers should also learn about well-researched behavioural differences between genders and ethnicities – Google is your friend here too.

If you’ve already received training, remember a one-off deep dive is about as effective as a one-time yoga retreat. Addressing your unconscious bias requires regular practice; you’ll find daily opportunities when you pay attention.

2. Fix the broken rung

Were you passed over for a promotion in the early days? We hate to break it to you, but that one event has likely continued to hold you back. Lean In and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report found that the biggest obstacle to women’s advancement is the “broken rung” – the very first step we take from an entry-level to a management position. 

According to the McKinsey report, for every 100 men who secure a management position, only 72 women are promoted. As a result, men hold almost twice as many manager-level roles as women. Rinse and repeat up the ladder, and it’s no wonder women make up less than 10% of c-suite roles.🪜

We know that biases lead to women being held to a different standard; men are judged on potential, while women only advance if they have a strong track record. The principles to remove discrimination from the hiring process should also apply to internal candidate progression. At Powrsuit, we love the saying ‘hire for passion, train for skill’ (unless you’re our brain surgeon). 

In 2023, consider:

Measuring the gender composition of managers at each level.
Offering formal mentoring and sponsorship to female team members.

3. Boost learning and development opportunities 

Arguably, companies that invest in their employees’ growth and professional development will retain top talent more easily than those that don’t.

LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report shows that, for many businesses, training has shifted from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘need-to-have’. Skillsoft’s 2021 Women in Tech Report reports that the vast majority of respondents rated opportunities for professional development and training as extremely important to them, but only 42% said their employer currently offers any. When asked about the top challenges they have faced while pursuing a tech-related career, nearly a third of the women surveyed pointed to a lack of training. 

A portion of learning and development (L&D) initiatives should be earmarked to foster core leadership skills for high-performing women, like effective people management, career mapping, navigating conflict and critical conversations (giving and receiving feedback!). If we want to address the elephant in the boardroom, it pays to focus L&D activities on critical leadership skill gaps that cause women to be under-represented in c-suite roles. Proactively equipping women with financial management and forecasting, decision-making, and ‘future of work‘ skills like data literacy and human-centred design will help address the knowledge gaps that can hold women back. 

In 2023, consider:

Identifying a gap in your onboarding to set your people up for success.
Linking skills training with your employees’ goals and interests.
Supporting leadership courses, mentoring and coaching – all tools proven to support women.

4. Recognise all work (or spread it more equitably)

Writing meeting minutes, organising social events, serving on DEI committees, and shopping for gifts. Sound familiar? Working women accept ‘non-promotable work’ as just part of the job. These tasks are important to the smooth running of an organisation, but the problem is that they tend to fall mainly to women. Our precious time and energy get sucked up with work that goes unrewarded and unrecognised.

University of Pittsburgh professor and author found that the median woman at a large consultancy firm spent 200 more hours on non-promotable work each year than the median man – equating to one month’s worth of dead-end tasks. The firm’s executives were ‘shocked’ to learn about the imbalance. 🤔

2021 report by McKinsey found that women take the lead on employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion. While these initiatives are critical in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, organisations fail to reward or recognise them when it comes to performance reviews and promotions.

In 2023, consider:

Catching yourself when you assign non-promotable tasks – can it be made fairer?
Including ‘critical to the organisation work’ (committees and well-being initiatives) in role responsibilities to be formally recognised.

5. Solve your pay equity problem

You know about the gender pay gap; worldwide, women only make 77 cents for every dollar men earn – with The Nordic Region and New Zealand considered the most gender-equal, closing in on 90 cents. Lower salaries, alongside other gendered financial setbacks (caregiving, divorce), mean women risk missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars by the time they retire. 

We are beating a dead horse now; a diverse talent pool improves financial performance, and top talent should be paid what they’re worth. Women are leaving leadership roles at the highest rates ever as they realise on mass that the cost/benefit equation just doesn’t stack up for them anymore.

It’s 2023, and it’s time to get this one right. 

In 2023, consider:

Signing up to pay transparency registers, like the one in NZ called Mind the Gap.
Conducting pay equity audit (google the many PEA options!) to assess gaps – and then fix them.

Want more on pay negotiation?

In episode 1 of the PowrUp podcast, we talk all things negotiatating a pay rise.

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