Gender equity – beyond the marketing tool

After two decades of watching organisations rally behind gender equity in the workplace, there has been a glimmer of hope that real change is just around the corner. There has been an optimism that we are finally on the right path to seeing women enjoy the opportunities and privileges that have been historically unavailable to them.

Targets have been set, programs invested in and many glossies produced to show the progress that organisations have been making in this space. Hashtags continue to spring up on social media showcasing male leaders, eager to put their name to the good fight. Organisations have not been shy in using their diversity programs as a lure for attracting talent.

All these efforts are to be applauded and supported. However, the fact remains that while small strides have been made, they have been glacial and in some areas the numbers have stalled completely.

The gender pay gap is still alive and well, the number of female CEOs hasn’t changed significantly and women on boards are still a novelty for many organisations. Women continually find themselves on the ‘mummy track’ after having children, and make up more than their fair share of the under-employed.

Everyone swears that they are trying to turn things around and are happy to fall on their swords when targets are missed, claiming that “they are on the journey and still have a long way to go”.

The truth is, that after the initial excitement of the launch of a new diversity strategy wears off, the hard work needs to begin.

Gender equity has become a glorious marketing tool for organisations, but how many are willing to put in the hard yards to ensure that the momentum is sustained?

Working towards gender equity is not sexy. It is not about the marketing spin and how organisations can one-up each other to put in place a new flexibility policy or provide an extra week of paid parental leave. Gender equity requires hard work, every day, by every member of the organisations – not just the CEO, but all line managers making the on-the-ground decisions that impact their teams.

To ensure that gender equity “sticks” requires a multi-pronged approach starting with a review of every single people policy and process to identify and eliminate bias. It requires targets with teeth and real consequences for non-compliance for every leader from the CEO down to the newly promoted manager in sales. It requires making the hard calls about what behaviours simply won’t be tolerated, no matter how much revenue someone can generate for the organisation. And it’s about getting past the thought that hiring a qualified woman for a senior role is “risky”.

If organisations are serious about gender equity – real, long-term, sustainable gender equity – it has to be at the expense of the status quo. Put simply, organisations just can’t have it all. You can’t drive change whilst still supporting old policies and processes, outdated management models and poor behaviours.

The good news is that most organisations and leaders have great intentions. By tapping into this goodwill and not losing focus of the prize, the opportunity to succeed is there for the taking – it just requires a little effort.

Optimiss Consulting works with organisations who are focused on driving better business outcomes through inclusive work practices. To book your free 30 minute phone consultation, contact us at solutions@optimiss.com or through our website www.optimiss.com