3 Reasons Why Gender Equality is an 'Everyone' Issue Some 58 percent of men in one survey said there are no more obstacles for women in the workplace. Hey, guys, wake up.

By Heather R. Huhman

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shutterstock

It's 2017, but the gender-equality conversation continues, with women still facing obstacles in the workplace. Just last week, the tech industry highlighted the major thought divides that persist, when Google fired a senior software engineer.

Related: 4 Mistakes We All Make to Perpetuate Gender Bias

The engineer had sent a 3,300-word document to the company's internal networks, slamming diversity initiatives and noting his personal view that women aren't equally represented in leadership because of "biological causes." He said men have a higher drive for status than women do.

And in July, a SurveyMonkey poll -- not limited just to the tech world -- found that more than half (58 percent) of men surveyed said there were no more obstacles for women in the workplace. Sixty percent of women, however, said they do exist.

Michelle Vitus, founder and CEO of Slate Advisers, a career transition and advisory firm based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has experienced the obstacles confronting women for herself. "When I was a junior employee at a Fortune 500 company, I had an executive mentor," she recalled, via email.

"I heard people ask, 'What did she [meaning Vitus herself] do to get him to become her mentor?' If I had been a guy, people would have assumed that he was my mentor because I was smart and ambitious."

Related: Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In 2.0 and Corporate Gender Bias

The message from Vitus's experience is clear: The best way to combat sexism and inequality is by moving the conversation forward and highlighting why gender equality is important for everyone, not just women.

Here's why gender equality is an everyone issue and how to achieve it:

Gender-diverse companies perform better.

The truth is out -- companies that embrace gender diversity perform better than those that don't. A McKinsey January 2015 report found that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform companies rated in the bottom quartile of diversity.

As the CEO of DDI, a leadership solutions company based out of Pittsburgh, Penn., Tacy Byham says she's personally benefited from such environments. "Gender diversity among leadership unleashes the collective genius of the organization," she wrote via email. "It leverages a broader perspective, which helps you to better understand your potential market, weed out bad ideas and develop new, innovative ideas."

To encourage its female employees to learn leadership skills and pursue high-ranking roles, DDI provides them with their own leadership-development program. "Our program focuses on helping early and mid-career women step up to broader leadership responsibilities," said Byham.

However, the program still involves men, showing them how they can be allies in the workplace. "They become critical partners to help overcome the unique challenges facing women," Byham continued. "We do this to make sure that the men who are in leadership positions set an example [to show] that gender equality is a top business priority."

When employers provide leadership opportunities to women and men alike, they motivate men to get involved as supportive partners in equal opportunity.

Men benefit, as well.

Despite what many people assume, gender equality is not strictly limited to creating advantages for women. "Gender equality" means simply that every employee has access to the same benefits, which is why equality is an "everyone" issue.

To demonstrate equality for all, some companies, for instance, are now giving men the same parental benefits women receive when they have children, such as child care and parental leave.

At Happy Medium, a digital advertising agency in Des Moines, Iowa, employees all receive the same parental leave. Founder and CEO Katie Patterson said she learned the value of that precious time following the birth of her own child.

"I was the first person to have a child, at my office, and my experiences through that incredible life-changing event [weren't just] because I'm a woman," she told me. "They are because a child joined my family. Men also have these dramatic shifts in their lives, and we want to treat them the same."

As a result of Patterson's realization, the company now offers 12 weeks of paid parental leave to every new parent. "We wanted to create a place that people think of as an extension of their lives, and when life happens, I want to treat my team members like the friends and colleagues they are, not like burdens," she wrote.

"With full parental leave for all parents -- moms, dads and adoptive parents -- I wanted to show appreciation to those who dedicate such a huge portion of their lives to the company's success and growth."

Gender fluidity matters, too.

"Gender equality" also means being inclusive of trans and gender-fluid employees. Companies can do this by reexamining their policies and seeing if those policies also benefit these employees.

Alaina Restivo, vice-president of talent for Upserve, a restaurant-management platform based in Providence, Rhode Island, fully embraces her company's family-first policies as well as its LGBTQ efforts. "We had a staff member come on board about a year ago who caused us to reexamine the systemic ways in which we were signaling to employees that our work environment was both welcoming and inclusive," said Restivo via email.

"We changed our people-operations systems to include the preferred pronoun, and eventually added a gender-inclusive bathroom to further break down barriers that might keep anyone from feeling fulling embraced or welcome to be their authentic selves at our company."

Related: Kleiner Perkins Cleared of Gender Bias in Pao Case; Jury Ordered to Deliberate Retaliation Claim

In sum, every employee has the right to feel comfortable in the workplace. When employers adopt a mindset of acceptance and inclusion, gender equality finally becomes a possibility.

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Side Hustle

Getting Laid Off Allowed Him to Focus on His Sentimental Side Hustle. Now He's on Track to Earn Over $700,000 in 2024.

Alaa El Ghatit wasn't fulfilled at his day job. So he started LifeOnRecord to help people record memories and well wishes.

Social Media

With This LinkedIn Algorithm Change, Your Best Posts Could Reach New Readers for Months

It's one of many new features rolling out on the platform in 2024.

Life Hacks

Get Access to More Than 2,500 Best-Selling Books with 12min's Learning Program

This popular learning software condenses ideas and strategies from the world's best-selling books and quickly offers key points of emphasis.

Franchise

What Is the "Hottest" Franchise to Buy?

There has to be a "best" franchise and a "hottest" industry, right? Well, sorry, there is not. Franchise expert Tim Parmeter explains why.

Growing a Business

9 Hidden Reasons Your Customers Will Leave You

Understanding why customers are leaving your business takes attention, not assumptions. Read on for proven ways to catch issues early and keep more clients around for the long run.

Business News

Should CEOs Take a Pay Cut to Avoid Layoffs and Cutting Jobs? It's Complicated, Experts Say

Former Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata famously took a 50% pay cut in 2013 to avoid layoffs and pay employee salaries.