Gender equality in the workplace came under a lot of pressure during the pandemic. Women were disproportionately impacted during COVID-19, often bearing the bulk of childcare and caring responsibilities and missing out on opportunities as a result. Gender disparity also showed through in terms of jobs losses - women make up 39% of the global workforce but accounted for 54% of job losses during the pandemic. Now is the ideal time to rebalance the scales, not just to benefit women but also so that organizations can enjoy the innovation and productivity benefits of more diverse teams.
What role does inclusive leadership play in challenging gender equality in the workplace?
Inclusive leadership is vital to challenging gender equality in the workplace. But what does this look like in practice?
- Have the conversations. One recent survey found that 59% of professionals felt that their organization should be vocal about diversity and inclusion issues. Having these conversations creates a culture of openness in which others feel like they can talk about diversity and equality too. This is about modeling the way you want your business to approach this issue, from listening to feedback to supporting key events and ideas.
- Create a genuinely flexible working model. The pandemic gave most organizations insight into how to work on a more agile and flexible basis. This is a working model that tends to particularly benefit women who (still) tend to be the primary childcarers in most households. A genuinely flexible approach not only ensures that working professionals can fulfill their potential in the workplace but that it doesn’t have to come at the cost of family life or their own wellbeing.
- Celebrate the differences. Often when we use the word ‘inclusivity’ it can conjure up ideas about everyone fitting in and being the same. However, it’s much more about celebrating the differences and creating a culture in which those differences are an advantage. Inclusive leadership is about demonstrating how beneficial it can be to have different communication styles, ideas and creative approaches within the team. The idea is to remove the perception that we all have to think the same, tackle problems in the same way or have the same inspiration - the differences are what make creativity and innovation possible.
- Track and measure your progress. Setting up an infrastructure that will allow you to track diversity and inclusion data is vital to ensuring that your business makes progress when it comes to addressing something like gender imbalance. This should include every human contact with the business, from job applicants to permanent employees. Diversity and inclusion data will show you where the business is failing at equality and where improvements could be made. It’s essential to ensure that you make it clear why you’re requesting this data and that you communicate any improvements that result from it to your workforce.
Organizations that invest in diversity and inclusivity today are the enterprises most likely to thrive tomorrow. Challenging gender equality in the workplace through more inclusive leadership is a vital part of making that happen.