Although women have made significant strides, ensuring gender diversity in the workplace will take a concerted effort by business owners.

Did you know that women represent over half of college graduates and yet remain underrepresented in entry-level positions? Ensuring gender diversity in the workplace — along with ethnic and racial diversity — remains a challenge for many companies, despite gains made in the past several decades.

Women in the Workplace 2017, a study by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org, offers insight. Here's a look at the current situation and steps business owners can take to help commit to diversity in their workforce.

The Status of Gender Diversity in the Workplace

Today, even as female college graduates outnumber men, the number of men in corporations continues to outnumber that of women.

The following statistics from the McKinsey/LeanIn.org study help underscore the gap between women and men in the workforce:

  • For every 36 white men in entry-level positions, there are 31 white women.
  • The gap widens the higher people climb on the corporate ladder. The C-suite is composed of 67 percent white men and only 18 percent white women, while women of color lag behind both groups with just 3 percent representation in C-suite positions.
  • According to self-reporting from female employees, 44% of Asian women agree that managers give them stretch assignments, as compared to only 40% of white or Latina women. Stretch assignments help prepare workers for the next level while also giving them a chance to grow in knowledge, skills and leadership abilities.
  • Men are less likely than women to think that gender has impacted their career. Only 8 percent of men who missed a promotion, raise or opportunity for advancement believe that gender played a part in the decision, was compared to 37 percent of women.

What Employers Can Do Differently

Although women have made significant strides, ensuring gender diversity in the workplace for all women — especially women of color — will take a concerted effort by business owners to expose and confront unconscious biases. Steps businesses can take to encourage diversity include:

  1. Implement color-, race- and gender-blind recruiting: One method gaining prominence is "blind" recruiting. Names and identifying information are stripped from resumes before they're circulated to hiring managers. This helps conceal identifying information that could cause unconscious hiring preferences to come into play. In turn, the hiring manager may be more likely to rely on a candidate's experience, education and qualifications.
  2. Assess potential barriers, especially in the C-suite: Are all listed job requirements, including experience, education and travel completely necessary? Is it really essential to travel to regional offices, or could video conferences suffice? Limiting travel may make the C-suite more accessible to working mothers.
  3. Create routine interview questions in advance: Develop a set of questions for the position, not the person, and ask all candidates. This can help ensure fairness. According to Harvard Business Review, unstructured interviews often end with hiring managers choosing someone from a similar socioeconomic background. This "contributes to the prevalent gender segregation of jobs."
  4. Build work-life balance into benefits: All employees, regardless of gender, may care for elderly parents and children, need time off for doctor's visits or personal tasks or wish to volunteer for a cause. Building work-life balance into the office culture encourages fairness for all.
  5. Create a written equality policy: A written policy establishes common expectations and sends a strong message that your company is serious about achieving and maintaining diversity in the workplace.

Gender diversity in the workplace is possible, but you must first eliminate unspoken or unconscious biases in hiring and promotions. While changing workplace culture can take time, it is amply rewarded by the contributions that a diverse workforce can make to your company.

Tags: Hiring Laws and Regulations