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How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace
Updated at: 20/03/2012

Many sources define gender as the sociological construction of sex, meaning how society ascribes certain roles for men and women. In its report entitled "Promoting Gender Equality," the United Nations Population Fund states: "... it is important to acknowledge that where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources." Addressing gender inequality in the workplace is an important goal for companies to build strong alliances with women so the entire team contributes to organizational success.

1.     Analyze the composition of your board of directors, executive leadership team and staff. Gender equality begins at the highest level of corporate governance to set an example for executives, managers and employees. List areas, groups or occupations where there's an under-representation of women. Determine how workforce imbalances affect the company. For example, if women are underrepresented in management positions, it deprives the organization of leadership's diverse talent.

2.     Examine the availability and types of training that offer professional development for all employees, and in particular, experienced and qualified female workers who have been overlooked for promotion to higher level positions. Working women are primarily responsible for coordinating family obligations, child-care arrangements and their job demands. Implement flexible training options for employees whose schedules prevent them from participating in professional development activities due to scheduling conflicts. One solution is to offer remote access to online training.

3.     Review the company's fair employment practices and policies. Update policies pertaining to sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex in accordance with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. Ensure your organizational policies are congruent with other federal, state and local employment laws. If your organization has a collective bargaining agreement, review the terms and conditions of the agreement for compliance with applicable labor laws. Determine the level of skills and training of your human resources employee and labor relations staff.

4.     Conduct research on employer policies that accommodate the needs of a diverse, gender-equal work force. Explore developing and implementing family-friendly initiatives, child-care options for working parents, educational subsidies and comprehensive benefits packages that meet the needs of traditional and nontraditional family structures. Network with professionals of agencies and professional organizations that promote gender equality; subscribe to trade journals or newsletters for innovative ways to dismantle workplace inequities.

5.     Develop training for all levels of management and staff on topics such as maintaining gender equity, creating a collegial and collaborative work environment and appreciating diverse talents, skills and capabilities. Encourage individual participation as well as experiential learning through team building exercises and work groups. Establish learning objectives that build upon the foundation of fair employment practices and policies.

6.     Design employee opinion surveys and exit interview questions that elicit information about working conditions, employee views about equality, training opportunities and professional development activities. Develop an action plan template that helps implement changes in response to survey results. Create another template that helps analyze and report the effectiveness of retention strategies.


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