Although significant progress is being made in achieving gender equality in the workforce, there is still much ground to cover. Many systematic issues are still prevalent in just about every industry, and unexpected barriers can pop up at any moment.
These problems are often unavoidable and can happen to any woman regardless of the circumstances. For there to be room at the table for women to successfully thrive in the workplace, it’s up to organisations to put in the effort to make sure all of their employees are treated equally.
Here are some of the most fundamental issues still facing women in the workforce today and what organisations can do to help address these problems.
Pay inequality is one of the most pressing issues that face women in the workplace, and it has been for a very long time. Women, and especially women of colour, are still paid significantly less than white men for performing the same roles throughout the world.
A work environment of transparency and honesty is the best way to try and overcome this problem. Leaders should encourage their workplaces to perform a pay equity audit that will help to address any discrepancies and determine just how severe the issue is. Once this is complete, an action plan can be made and change will hopefully soon be on the way.
With many employees taking matters into their own hands and sharing their salaries with their co-workers, companies refusing to be accountable and honest will only put these discussions off for so long. Those in powerful positions should be aware that this topic is unavoidable and cannot be swept under the rug.
Re-entering the workforce
Trying to relaunch a career after an extended hiatus, especially after caring for children or the elderly, is not without its challenges. On top of a possible loss of confidence, you also have to rebuild your network, combat ageism and adapt to new technologies.
It’s important for leaders not to overlook the skills learned and developed away from work. Raising children and caring for the elderly are some of the toughest jobs out there, and requires leadership, organisation and strength. Valuing these skills will help give all applicants a fair shot and help create a more balanced workplace.
Offering applicants and existing employees the ability to work from home or choose their hours may also help women return to work sooner and achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Lack of mentors and role models
It’s no secret that men tend to hold more leadership positions than women, with only 18.3% of CEOs in Australia being women. This means that for women working their way up the corporate ladder, the higher they get the fewer women in senior positions they will be surrounded by.
All companies should be focusing on intentionally diversifying their senior-level staff and setting clear goals in place. This should begin right away during the recruitment process, by making sure to use inclusive language and showing diverse images when advertising upcoming positions.
Internally, offering flexible work schedules, promoting a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and sponsoring mentorship programs that focus on executive coaching for women can help to make the upper ranks of your organisation more inclusive.
Women of all levels of employment in all industries remain affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite the recent “Me-Too” movement, this is an issue that isn’t going away, and won’t be anytime soon. Sexual harassment can cause victims to suffer from depression, anxiety and be driven away from their jobs.
It’s up to organisations to have a clearly communicated zero-tolerance policy in place, and put educational programs in place so that all employees know what type of behaviour is unacceptable. Managers should be trained to properly report any reports made and any claims should be thoroughly investigated and corrective actions must be taken.
These are just a few of the many challenges still facing women in the workforce all around the world. It’s up to the leaders of today to be vigilant in spotting the issues and be well-equipped to handle them appropriately and effectively.