by Lydia Bundred
Gender Equality - Not Just a Woman's Fight
Even in the 21st century, women’s equality within the workplace, especially in the higher ranks of an organisation, is still lacking. Recent studies in the European Union (EU) have shown a link between economic growth and women’s participation in the work populace. The overall performance and productivity of an organisation is also impacted by gender equality. Certain professions are seen as female-specific or male-suited within the culture of the business and, to break these moulds and bridge unequal opportunities for promotion and wages, organisations must look within. Saudi Arabia is testimony to how leaps can be made by implementing changes within a system.
According to the United Nations (UN) Entity for Gender Equality, the issue is not to make men and women, girls and boys the same but to remove the dependence of rights, responsibilities
and opportunities from gender. Gender equality is often synonymous with women, but the stakes are high for both genders.
When more women join the workforce, it lessens the labour force gap between men and women and this benefits the economy. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson recently remarked that “women’s participation in the labour force remains too low. We know that economic growth is closely tied to the level of women’s engagement in the labour force, and the economic autonomy of women underpins their political and social rights.” On average, women earn 60 to 75% of the average male’s salary. When comparing hours worked, both paid and unpaid, women in developing countries work up to twice as hard as men. In a study conducted in 2013, 49.1% of the world’s working women were in jobs where they were vulnerable, with no labour law protection, and who felt they were undervalued as compared with 46.1% of men who work under labour law protection. A little more than half of the world’s population are women, and yet 100 countries have laws restricting women from participating in economic activities.
By enabling an entire population to actively grow and be a part of the labour force, the economy would see exponential growth. A study done by USAID on development revealed that female-owned firms showed higher sales return overs those owned by males. Female-run organisations also tend to employ more same-sex employees than do male-owned organisations. The same study showed that women tend to make higher payments on their loans and save more than men. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that, by 2028, women will be the major global-consumption spenders.
Studies conducted on companies with women in senior positions scored higher on overall effectiveness than those with all-male senior executives. Research in the EU showed a direct link between organisations that have men and women on their boards and productivity, in contrast to those that were all-male. A nonprofit organisation, Catalyst, saw a 66% better performance in its organisations with heterogeneous board directors than homogenous ones.
Internal Policies and Priorities
Information technology, firefighting, sports coaching and police officer are some of the jobs that are seen as male-dominated, while other professions such as midwifery, secretary, receptionist and hairdresser are viewed as female occupations, according to a poll taken by YouGov. These gender moulds have seen some significant cracks and changes in the last 10 years. However, some sectors are still largely dominated by one sex. Encouragement from employers and the opposite sex to join predominantly male or female industries will affect the statistics positively. Training programmes and outreaches from department heads can act as a catalyst for awareness and for the recruiting of both genders.
Internal organisation policies must cater for and advocate equality while showing no tolerance for gender bias. Incorporate fair expectations and equal opportunities for growth as a business value. Interact with staff to highlight areas where policies should be put in place to accommodate the needs of both sexes. Build your organisation by listening to those you manage, because they are your brand ambassadors.
“Now reaching that balance is going to mean that we – and I mean we men – have to play a stronger role in bringing about the necessary transformational change. We must ensure representation of women on boards and panels, both in the public and the private sector. We must put an end to tolerance of sexist behaviour or discriminatory practices against women.” These were the words of the UN deputy secretary-general at an address on gender equality given in January 2015. Equal opportunities, responsibilities and rights in all areas of life aren’t just a woman’s fight but belong to us collectively, globally and organisationally.