Tips to improve gender equality in your business

In recent years, there’s been a growing movement pushing for increased equality in workplaces around the world – and for good reason. Despite best efforts, research proves 41 of the top Fortune 500 companies were run by women in the first quarter of 2021, representing just 8.2% of these gold-standard businesses (yet still an improvement from just 33 in 2019 and 24 in 2018). As equality in firms continues to come under increased scrutiny, it’s becoming essential for companies to find ways to improve their record on equal opportunities for both males and females. Below are just a few tips for how you can assess and address potential equal rights in your firm.  

Recognize the potential for unconscious bias

Whether we realize it or not, we all suffer from unconscious bias to some degree – whether that be based on race, sex, age, disability or sexuality. Very often, these biases manifest themselves in a tendency to have particular types of people at the upper echelons of an organization. Take a step back for a second and check what your personal biases might be then take a macro view of your organization to see if that culture filters down through your staff. Even just taking a cursory study of the people you have in positions of authority in your firm will offer a valuable insight into your firm’s tendencies (or lack thereof) for equality. If you find bias in your roster of bosses and managers, you could consider addressing the balance by offering additional training to your female staff – for example, offering them the chance to attain a Women in Leadership Business Certificate.

Mind your language, tone and outlook 

The tone and language we use when we speak can have a huge impact on the message we convey and, in turn, how listeners feel. If your firm has a tradition of segregation between men and women in the workplace you will likely unwittingly be sending the message that women are in some way inferior to their male counterparts. Note, this idea can spread through everything from the way staff interact with each other to your corporate website or brochure (for example, only featuring male staff in the ‘about us’ section). 

Involve everyone – from the shop floor to the boardroom 

Traditionally, the majority of calls for equality came from lower-grade employees – those far more likely to be at the sharp end of workplace inequality. While admirable, this approach simply doesn’t work and you must involve all levels of your business hierarchy in the decision-making process of who attains promotions or other improved rights at work. Only when an entire firm gets behind issues of equality will the culture start changing – from the bottom to the top. 

Distribute anonymous questionnaires to assess staff opinions

Very often, bosses feel that all is well in the workplace when in reality the total opposite is true. Staff members are frequently fearful of expressing their true opinions when asked face-to-face in case they run the risk of offending their superiors or, worse yet, jeopardizing their jobs. By distributing anonymous feedback questionnaires featuring questions deliberately aimed at identifying your employees’ views towards equality (and how well they feel your firm caters for women), you’ll be much more likely to get true opinions.