Advocating for Gender Equality in the Workplace

Gender equality is a key to competitive success

Men can advocate for gender equality in the workplace, but success depends on getting past traditional vaguaries and moving toward specific programs designed not only to attract but also retain women.

Gender equality in the workplace is essential to building a competitive organization that recruits and retains the best talent. By welcoming women, organizations can more than double their recruiting appeal, particularly in fields where women have traditionally faced institutional obstacles.

Establishing an environment that is supportive of women in terms of both conscious and unconscious biases will naturally translate to better retention. Equality and diversity across multiple dimensions plays well with millennials, an increasingly dominant demographic in the global workforce.

Interest in gender equality and how to make it happen was featured in a recent Forbes article with insights from Mike Gamson, Senior Vice President for LinkedIn Global Solutions.

Gamson shares the wisdom that led him to make significant progress toward gender equality at LinkedIn, acknowledging three things that men in leadership positions can do:

  1. Recognize the unconscious biases that are maintaining the status quo and disadvantage other groups.
  2. Focus on recruitment and hiring. Gamson advocates for a highly deliberate emphasis on creating a diverse workforce.
  3. Invest in high-potential employees and set aside investments that are explicitly there to reach underrepresented talent.

These insights are based on broad assertions about the competitive advantage of being more diverse. Being more diverse brings differing perspectives that can help organizations be more innovative. Having diverse employees can help your organization reflect the markets you are trying to serve. Creating diversity has a social justice component that can raise employee engagement.

Women Increasingly a Larger Percentage of High School Valedictorians and College Graduates

The assertions above can be hard to quantify with hard numbers. There are strong, practical reasons for men to advocate for gender equality in the workplace. Simply put, developing a culture that hires, develops and supports women can prepare your organization to compete more effectively for some of the best emerging talent.

More than 70 percent of high school valedictorians are women. The US Department of Education reported that for the graduating class of 2013, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every 100 men. Women earned 60 percent of all master's degrees, as well as 52 percent of all doctorates.

Beyond Hiring

What else can men do to start advocating more effectively for women in the workplace?

  • Hiring won't help if you don't retain: It is relatively easy to hire more women over a defined period of time, but have you put in place the benefits, work environment and perks to ensure they stay? That effort starts Day One with employee onboarding and orientation. Track turnover carefully and prepare yourself for change if you need to start addressing cultural, or other, factors that may be driving women away.
  • Champion less, listen more, advocate most: It can get paradoxical when men start to assert themselves in the workplace to create a more welcoming environment for women. Support women in leadership and emerging leadership roles and challenge them, in turn, to spearhead efforts to improve gender equality in the workforce.
  • Create resource groups, network activities and other sponsored opportunities for women: When you create networks for women, you establish a centralized forum that can provide feedback and insights specific to women.

Men can be a part of this momentum by advocating, listening and supporting these efforts. It can be a benefit to understand that supporting the cause of gender equality in the workplace enhances your organization by helping you attract better, more diverse talent.