Gender diversity and inclusion are the pillars of a thriving and healthy workplace. Yet, a 2019 IBM study demonstrated almost 80% of companies worldwide have yet to prioritize gender equality in their organizations, especially among leadership positions (1).
Understanding Gender Diversity and Inclusion
Gender discrimination, harassment, and biases in the workplace are historically well-documented. Until today, women, gender-fluid, and non-binary employees still receive the short end of the stick.
This creates long-lasting consequences such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and job insecurity for marginalized genders. The World Bank also reported that gender inequality creates financial losses up to $23,620 per person globally (2).
However, to effectively curb inequality and implement fair policies, we need to understand what diversity and inclusivity really mean.
Gender diversity is the fair representation of people of different genders within an organization. This means hiring and promoting employees from underrepresented groups such as women and folks from the LGBTQ+ community.
But a fair workplace shouldn’t stop at hiring people from underrepresented groups. After hiring them, do you help them feel like they belong?
Gender inclusivity is about helping marginalized genders feel safe, and that their efforts are celebrated. They should feel confident to speak up and embrace their unique traits.
Unlike diversity, inclusivity is less tangible and often neglected. It goes beyond tracking and analyzing gender pay gaps and hiring numbers. It’s about enforcing anti-discriminatory policies and providing education to curb sexist and disrespectful behaviors.
Going Beyond Diversity: Boosting Workplace Inclusivity in Four Ways
It’s evident that male-dominated work cultures are reinforced within many industries. Even today, 71% of women have worked at a tech company where bro culture was pervasive and harmful (3). Therefore, more intentional initiatives are needed to push back against this current dated trend.
1) Amplify melanated voices
Think about how the various voices in your organization are being heard. Is everyone getting their fair share of airtime? Are there biases towards the person giving their opinion?
Encourage your female, transgender, or nonbinary employees to share their ideas. Always handle their opinions with respect, and help them feel safe in discussions. Doing so gives them a chance to be known for their skills, and not just their gender identity.
2) Use pronouns correctly
Using a person’s pronouns correctly, or using gender-inclusive language, is a simple way of showing respect. Don’t shy away from clarifying how they would like to be addressed. It’s good to correct yourself when you’ve slipped up too.
If you’re unsure, it’s generally acceptable to refer to someone by their name. You may also address them with the indeterminate pronoun “they.” For example, “They asked to reschedule the client meeting to 2 pm.”
3) Provide support and benefits
Healthcare, emotional support, and family benefits - are all ways to help marginalized genders cope with their challenges.
Ensure that medical and family benefits extend to adoptive children and same-sex partners. You can also offer employee resource groups (ERGs) for women, nonbinary people, and the LGBTQ+ community so that they have a safe space to share their experiences.
4) Implement fair promotion practices
Take a look at who makes up your hiring committee. Are they mostly cis-gendered men? Is it diverse enough? Even if they’re exclusively dominated by one gender, how do you ensure that it’s not biased towards that particular gender?
Periodically assess how people in your organization are selected for promotion. Additionally, ensure everyone has the same amount of contact with mentors, managers, and senior leaders.
Benefits of a Gender Inclusive Workplace
1) Enhanced collaboration and innovation
Research has shown that gender-inclusive workplaces practice more effective communication (4). For example, groups with more women are better at taking turns in the conversation. This, in turn, helps them to share knowledge and skills with each other. Diversity also limits groupthink tendencies, brings in different viewpoints, and increases creativity.
2) Expands your talent pool
Companies are struggling to attract and retain talent in the midst of this Great Resignation. Moreover, people are likely to decline unwelcoming work environments.
Therefore, emphasizing having an inclusive culture exposes you to wider talent pools. This also helps increase psychological safety and boost morale. In turn, you create higher retention rates, saving resources, time, and money in the long run.
3) Improves business prospects
McKinsey reports that gender-inclusive companies are 21% more likely to achieve profitability that is above average (5). The association between diverse workplaces and increased profits is partially attributable to higher workforce engagement, innovative decision-making, and more in-depth consumer insights.
The upsides of gender diversity and inclusivity aren’t about avoiding discrimination lawsuits or ticking off hiring checkboxes. It’s about amplifying the richness, brilliance, and empathy that our marginalized friends harness. So, let’s help them feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, let’s help them feel respected, and let’s help them thrive.
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