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This Women's Day, Focus on Gender-Equality at Workplace Out of the 46per cent of women who join the workforce, only 1per cent ever make it to the C-level positions and how can we help better this situation?

By Rachna Baruah

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Men and women walk the same hallways to the same meetings at work, yet their experiences are vastly different. According to a study done in 2016 by Mc. Kinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org (in one of the largest studies on this topic till date) noted that men win more promotions, more challenging assignments and more access to the top management of a company compared to women. Whereas, women perceive a steeper slog to the top, be it access to seniors or to gain a promotion to a c-suite level.

The study said that out of the 46per cent of women who join the workforce, only 1per cent ever make it to the C-level positions. How can we help better this situation? Companies need to initiate active efforts to bring gender parity at work, along with issues like the gender wage gap, curbing sexism, etc.

A large part of change comes from a company's management and the internal structure to consider their own biases. Often, we don't realize our set prejudices and biases because of our conditioning, but the process of unlearning of old patterns is imperative at every level of a company. There are multiple ways to ensure we get more women or people of diverse backgrounds in the workforces. Consider this – hiring managers can circulate resumes among the key people with names removed, so women or people of colour are not discriminated against.

Similarly, here are a few other others we can all bring more gender parity at workplaces:

Giving all Employees the Same Access to Opportunity

The above-stated research reported that men often have more opportunities to spend time with senior executives or work on the most important projects or even meet the most valuable clients. Adding this over for the years leads to increased exposure for men at the workplace, thus creating a high probability for them to be promoted or sent abroad for as assignment vis-à-vis a woman who's been working alongside. Companies should have processes which allow all employees, irrespective of gender or years of experience, to meet and gain knowledge and exposure from their seniors. Be it in the form of get-to-know sessions, randomized group meetings to discuss careers, etc. can go a long way in inculcating an atmosphere of equality.

Be Open to a More Diverse Senior Leadership Team

Although the percentage of women in senior roles grows in leading companies, it helps others to introspect and see the way they haven't had females in the leadership team. That doesn't mean a role requirement should be diluted just to fit a woman if she's not fit for it, but there can be a stronger push for females to apply for more mid-level positions when they're juniors and so on and so forth. Additionally, a company can also include other types of experience and skillsets that broaden and diversifies the pool of potential candidates. This makes for a diverse team with ideas from multiple viewpoints to collate in the same room.

Coach Employees and Ensure Everybody Has Access to Mentors

A lot of managers refrain from criticizing female employees for fear of being accused of bias. But all employees need a healthy feedback mechanism to improve, and not giving those opportunities because of gender can be detrimental. Similarly, companies with mentoring programs should pave way for diverse, preferably opposite-sex matches. Firms with few senior women are already stretched too thin from their attention to everybody and the junior women get lesser attention. Mentoring activities should also include sessions like how to ask for a pay raise, or how to apply for an available senior position at the company, etc.

Create a Safe Workplace

One in four women says they are subject to sexual harassment at work. Thankfully, after the #MeToo movement from 2017-18, most companies have stringent rules and codes of conducts for the workplace, along with the structure of committees where women can feel safe to report any misdoings. This can be a good starting point for companies that haven't implemented such measures already.

Address and Implement Work/Life Balance

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, despite working for 8 hours, an employee is only truly productive for 2 hours 53 minutes. Many workers feel that it is important to stay longer hours at the job to strengthen job security, be noticed by seniors as a hard worker and to satisfy cultural demands of "being at work longer = more productive and valuable to the company". A good way to resolve this type of pattern is to give them more control over their schedules and prioritizing results over the time spent in the office. Options like work-from-home or working remotely for a part of the month/year have proven to reduce attrition among employees. Companies should also consider helping pay for child and elder care, and not oversell their "family friendliness" or flexibility to potential job candidates as that leads to more frustration and exits later on.

Rachna Baruah

Brand Consultant

Rachna Baruah is a PR specialist who has worked in industries like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, AdTech, Healthcare, Education, Retail, among others. She is a results-driven, target-oriented professional with happy clients from across the world.
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