Last week, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day, a day that commemorates the certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows women to vote. This finally took place in 1920, after a 72-year-long civil rights movement that formally began with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights.

While gender equality has certainly come a long way since then, Women’s Equality Day still acts as a necessary reminder of the ways in which women are still unequal. One of these ways is in the workplace, where women often hold fewer positions of leadership, are paid less, and face barriers around balancing work and family life. And these inequities and barriers are even more apparent for women of color. In order to address these issues and create the systemic change that needs to happen around gender inequity in the workplace, employers need to first evaluate their own policies and workforce, so as to identify where changes are needed. Here’s where they can start:

Leadership

 via  Unsplash

Did you know that there are more CEOs named David than there are female CEOs? And only 5% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are women. The inequity is even more apparent for women of color, who make up on 0.4% of that number. If you look at the numbers, this major disparity is true across all sectors. 

Why does this matter?

It’s not just an issue of equality for the sake of equality – though that’s incredibly important – it’s also better for a company’s bottom line to have more women in the C-Suite. A recent study showed that when there is an even gender split in the C-Suite, revenues increase by up to 41%, and companies with more female representation in top management see 34% greater returns to stakeholders. And remember that 5% of female CEOs in the S&P 500? Those companies have historically outperformed the S&P 500 index and generate 7% of the group’s total revenue. 

So making sure that women are equally represented in leadership positions isn’t just good for women – it’s good for the bottom line. For those employers who have a distinct gender gap in leadership, your best move is to first acknowledge that gap, and actively and strategically work to address it.

Equal Pay 

Though some argue the numbers, the generally accepted data around the gender pay gap says that women earn just 79 cents for every dollar men earn. While this is of course not the case in every workplace, it is the average, and it hasn’t changed significantly since 2000

Why does this matter?

Women are being paid less for doing the same work as men. While some studies do show that the gap decreases when you compare men and women with the same job titles, there is still a gap in those cases as well. It’s difficult to definitively account for why this gap exists, and there are likely many factors at play, including the fact that less women hold leadership positions, women may negotiate smaller salaries than men, and, sometimes, outright gender bias. 

Regardless of the reason, companies who are interested in creating equal workplaces should take time to evaluate what they’re paying their female employees versus what they’re paying their male employees, and make sure that the numbers are equal for equal work.

Paid Leave

 via  Unsplash

Right now, only 13% of workers in the United States have access to paid leave through their employers. While every worker will likely need to take a leave during their employment, whether to take care of a family member, address one of their own health concerns, or care for a child, the lack of laws around paid leave disproportionately affect women. The United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers, who often need time at home after work for a number of reasons: to physically recover from childbirth, take care of and breastfeed their new babies, and care for themselves mentally during a new phase of life, to name just a few.

Why does this matter?

As a result of these laws, many new mothers are forced to return to work 3 weeks after their babies are born, if not sooner, and find childcare for their newborns, which can be difficult physically and emotionally. Beyond that, lack of paid leave can lead to “poverty spells” in families where mothers have to temporarily leave work without pay after having a baby. Beyond that, companies should consider that paid family leave increases employee retention, which ultimately saves employers money due to reduced turnover costs. 

Breastfeeding

 via  Flickr

via Flickr

While federal law mandates that mothers be given breaks to pump their breast milk upon returning to work, as well as a place to do it, the conditions under which many employers fulfill this law are often less than ideal.

Why does this matter?

Breastfeeding mothers are often put in very difficult positions when re-entering the workforce after childbirth. While most states do protect mothers’ rights to breastfeed in public, the lack of privacy and social norms are what makes it difficult for mothers to pump when they return to work. Many new mothers are forced to pump in bathrooms or supply closets, which can be embarrassing, physically awkward, and even unsanitary. This can have a negative effect on company culture, and even cause new mothers who don’t have paid leave to quit their jobs, which leads to many of the issues described above.

As an increasing number of companies choose to focus on employee health and wellness, fair and equal workplace policies for all employees must be a substantial part of the conversation. 

Do you know of a company that has done a noteworthy job of creating or maintaining gender equality in their workplace? Tell us about them! We want to know what they’re up to. Here’s how:

Comment