Yes, we’re talking about gender equity, not just gender equality. Because the latter can only truly be realised when efforts are made to provide the former. Business leaders making the right decision to achieve a gender diverse workforce will need to prioritise providing equity in their workplace, otherwise they won’t realise success. And with multiple studies showing the benefits of a gender balanced workforce, it is within everyone’s interests that a mission to increase diversity is managed properly and without bias. We take a look at the balance of gender equality and gender equity below, understanding how businesses can meaningfully embrace diversity.
Though a widely discussed topic in the UK, active support for gender equality still has room for improvement. In a study carried out last year, only 23% of people in the UK believed inequality between males & females to be one of the most serious types of inequality. This falls considerably shorter than our European neighbours, sitting at an average of 33% within the same study. Moving our focus from the general population of our business leaders… the picture doesn’t seem to improve. In summer this year, the annual Global Gender Gap Index was released - this is a substantial framework used to report on the progress of global gender-based disparities using benchmarks across multiple categories; including economic, political, health- & education-based criteria. 2022’s Index revealed that the UK ranked in 22nd place, putting us firmly behind the likes of Ireland, Germany, Spain, Belgium and France - to name a few. Putting our UK benchmark into context like this demonstrates how much we fall short of our neighbours. We certainly still have some work to do.
First and foremost, gender equality has been consistently linked to overall economic improvements and successes. And this stays true when applied to the workplace. What makes it matter boils down to the importance of a fair and equal community. Would anyone truly wish to be defined solely because of their physical make-up? And beyond introducing a fairer system, gender diversity in the workplace can also be directly linked to improved employee and business performance. Companies with a diverse employee roster have a greater pool of ideas to work from. More ideas can lead to increased creativity, productivity and different methods of solving problems. This in turn will help develop better products and services offered, enhancing your organisations’ reputation and customer base. You can learn more in our blogs: Diversity Hiring: How Businesses Can Reap The Benefits; and: If You Want To Create Inclusive Products, You Need Gender Diversity In Your Business.
It is worth taking the time to understand the gender equity concept so that you can apply the proper steps towards an equal and diverse workplace. To (severely) paraphrase the philosopher Lao Tzu; giving someone a fish is not the same as teaching someone to fish. Forgive the artistic license with Tzu’s famous quote but, to focus on your workplace, simply hiring more female employees is not the same as creating a diverse employee pool that has equal status and opportunity. The gender equity concept looks to rectify this by aligning advantages across a group. When applying the concept to your organisation, it can take many different forms or actions. It could be assessing your job adverts - is the language primarily masculine-leaning? It could be gauging your current interview panels - do they represent the balanced workforce you’re looking to hire? It could be focusing on the access to support internally - do you only assess promotions for those who are outspoken about their career goals? Do you provide inclusive communication and spaces for your LGBTQ+ community to be their authentic selves at work? And the list goes on… most importantly, it’s taking the time to assess individual groups within your organisation as a whole and making sure their needs and requirements are being met to empower equally. For more information, see our post on The Importance Of Removing Gender Bias From The Workplace.
The European Institute of Gender Equality defines these two gender concepts as:
Equality = having equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for all genders.
Equity = providing fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities across all genders.
A subtle difference, but important nonetheless. As we referenced at the beginning of our article, you cannot have true equality in the workplace, without providing true equity. In other words, providing the same opportunities to a group as a whole, assumes that all genders are starting at the same level. This is not the case. Even a group of individuals who all identify as the same gender could have disparities, based on some experiencing different forms of inequalities and some benefiting from fitting within certain social norms. Consider the impact of gender equity as levelling the playing field by giving each player a starting point defined by their individual needs and skill level, rather than all starting from the same spot.
Now that we have an understanding of the differences and strengths between gender equality and equity, let’s have a look at some tangible changes that can be implemented to meaningfully increase real diversity in the workplace. The following strategies shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of business leaders, however. These should be championed by all within the business, at each level, to be successful;
The last century has seen large steps being taken towards achieving gender equality and a tackling of outdated biases. But, as this article has shown, there is of course more work to be done. In a 2021 survey of UK companies in the FTSE100, just 8% of CEOs identified as female with only 13.5% female representation at the Executive Director level. These sobering statistics emphasise the scale of the problem and the sheer importance of decision-makers prioritising an equitable workplace more than ever.
Increasing gender diversity within a business requires a pivot in traditional attitudes and our understanding of what it means to provide an equal platform. Prioritising gender equity in your people strategies can be a vital stepping stone in realising this.
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