Breaking Barriers; The Importance of Gender Equity in the Workplace - ATL HR : Smarter HR

The topic of gender equity has been a subject of considerable debate, invoking questions and concerns that affect both ends of the spectrum.

To start however, it is important to make a clear distinction between gender equity and gender equality, both of which while in the same boat, headed to the same place, are slightly different passengers.

So, what’s the difference, you ask?

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESDOC) describes the difference as:

“Gender equality, equality between men and women… does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they were born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.”

Which translates to; if gender equality is the navigator, with their foot perched on the end and a map held in their hands, gender equity is the frantically rowing oarsman.

Gender equality cannot be achieved without gender equity.

Inequality can present itself in a workplace in several different forms and despite some progress made in previous years, the gender gap in the workforce has only widened by the fallout caused by the pandemic.

The International Labour Organization reports that a decrease of 4.2% in women’s employment occurred in 2019-2020 compared to a 3% decrease in men’s employment, due to unequal pay, no social protection and large increase in violence & harassment. Out of the many groups of people affected by this problem, Bangladesh is ranked 131 on the UNDP 2021-22 Gender Inequality Index. In addition to this as per World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, there is an 88% gender gap in managerial positions in Bangladesh.

And while some efforts have been taken to address this, it is simply not enough. According to Article 28 of the Bangladesh Constitution, women should have equality of opportunity and rights in all spheres of life. Yet, the 2007 Bangladesh Occupational Wage Survey shows that men earn more money per hour than women.

A wage gap, however, is only one of various ways that working women in Bangladesh face gender inequity, such as – unjust pay, mental & sexual harassment, limited opportunities, less workplace safety, disparity in promotions, biasness against mothers – regardless of their backgrounds.

Constantly being subject to unfair scrutiny or watching as your colleagues receive credit for something you did, the credibility of which is affected by something as simple as one’s gender, can take quite a toll on one’s mental, physical and emotional health. It decreases their productivity, motivation, self-confidence, raises their stress level and makes them feel unsafe in their very own workplace.

And the most alarming part of it all is that most women are not aware of what can be done to protect themselves from this situation. In most cases, the laws that have been made to protect women from such circumstances are hardly being used to their benefit.

Simply because most women are unaware of their equality rights in the workplace. Only with awareness about gender equity can we make positive strides towards its implementation.

So how can companies do their part in trying to fix what’s broken? Creating empowering women in the economy is one of the Key Sustainable Development Goals, that has been set to achieve gender equality and empower all women. Companies can contribute to the UN SDG by employing women in the workplace, encouraging them to take part in decision making and to pursue leadership roles.

In today’s day and age, there are countless ways in which companies can take initiatives to put this into effect. Some ways to improve gender equity in the workplace are:

  • Having women leaders in the workplace. According to a survey by Gallup, employees are six percentage points more engaged working under a female manager than for a male manager.
  • Training managers to make them aware of their prejudices and stereotypes so they can be just and unbiased in their decision making and behaviour.
  • Refining the recruitment process to assess candidates only on the basis of merit, eliminating any and all other biases that come with gender or background.
  • Equitable and transparent salaries should be guaranteed, ensuring all the employees, regardless of their gender, get equal pay for the same amount of work.
  • Promotion procedures should include opinions of a group of diverse  who will offer well rounded feedback of work based entirely on merit.
  • Workplace must have policies to prevent sexual harassment and power abuse.

Gender equality and diversity and its benefits are endless. Ensuring equitable participation of the employees, regardless of their gender, will attract a larger pool of varied ideas, talents and techniques. It will lead to a more collaborative and effective work environment. In fact, according to McKinsey Global Institute, If women and men participate equally in the workforce, the global GDP can be increased by $28 trillion.

Who knew that passing up the chance to implement gender equity would turn out to be such an expensive decision?

Eventually, however, the goal of implementing gender equity anywhere in the world, be it in everyday life, or in the workplace, is to ensure a future that is just and fair. Where there is no place for prejudice and people are judged on the basis of merit alone. As it should always have been and as it should always be.

Sounds like a nice world, doesn’t it?

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