Site icon Be great at diversity & inclusion

From Inspiring to Enabling: Gender Balance in the Workplace

From Inspiring to Enabling: Gender Balance in the Workplace

From Inspiring to Enabling: Gender Balance in the Workplace

As a responsible employer, you’ve a crucial part to play in influencing and enabling gender balance – both within the workplace and in wider society. Our latest blog explores how your employment practices can bridge the gap between inspiring change and enabling it to happen.

Determination, courage, resilience, purpose and audacity. These are all qualities shared by countless incredible women who, throughout history, have in some way helped to re-define gender roles through their actions and achievements.

History – both ancient and modern – is packed full of examples of women who ‘no matter the importance of their discoveries, the audacity of their adventures, the width of their genius … were constantly belittled, forgotten, in some cases almost erased from history’.  These quoted words are in the preface of the most funded original book in the history of crowdfunding.  Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is packed full of inspirational real-life stories of women and girls throughout history who have not only aimed high and dreamed big but made a significant impact on the world’s perception of gender roles.  The roaring success of this book is proof alone of the growing movement in society to inspire and encourage young girls to knock down gender barriers in pursuit of their goals.  It is clear that the world recognises and supports the need for better gender balance.

But whilst inspiration abounds, and the spirit of wider society is increasingly willing, a culture of enablement is slow to follow suit in the real world. Solving the problem – really balancing the scales of gender diversity – requires proper and decisive action, and the workplace is a great place to start.  As a responsible employer, you’ve a crucial part to play in influencing change.  Whether intentionally or not, your stance on diversity and inclusion has a ripple effect on life in the home, the community and in wider society.  That’s quite the burden of responsibility.  On the other hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to shape how diversity – and in this example, gender balance – plays out in the environment within and beyond your organisation. Let’s explore how, as an employer, your practices can not only inspire change, but enable it too.

Workplace practices and their impact on home life

With such a huge proportion of the working population’s time spent at work, it stands to reason that working practices will heavily dictate the division of labour at home, especially where family life is concerned.  Who stays at home with the toddlers?  Who organises and coordinates the childcare?  Who does the school run, sorts out the costume for the school nativity, and deals with the endless stream of school-based admin? Who stays home for 5 days with a chicken pox ridden child? Who fills the fridge, does the laundry, organises the family social calendar and makes sure the kids have clothes that fit (vaguely)?  Whatever the family dynamic – be it one working and one stay-at-home parent, two full time working parents with outsourced childcare support, one part time and one full time working parent – the juggle (and the struggle) is real!  For working professionals, compromises, however major or minor, have to be reached.  In spite of everything, it remains the accepted norm that in most families, it is she, rather than he, who will make the most significant changes in order to accommodate family life.  And much of that stems from what is perceived as ‘normal’ and acceptable in the workplace.

The reality is that in most organisations, for male workers, even seemingly small things such as leaving the office on time can be problematic if there is a long-hours culture and leaving ‘early’ is frowned upon. At worst, it may be a very negative reaction – bosses hinting at lack of commitment, ‘harmless’ banter from colleagues about being a part-timer and that ‘surely your wife ought to have it covered?’. At best, it may be well intended positive affirmations to the effect of, ‘Isn’t he marvellous, doing his bit’.  Well, actually … no. He is a parent, just like she is, and it shouldn’t be ‘marvellous’, it should be accepted as normal.

There is much that employers can do to support parents at work. From a legal perspective, all employees have the right to request flexible working and there is some evidence that fathers have taken this up as well as mothers in order to facilitate childcare arrangements.  However, ONS Labour market statistics from Jan 2013 show that 87% of men are employed in full time work versus 54% of women. Part time work is taken up by 43% of women compared to just 13% of men. Part time work remains heavily female dominated and this is largely due to caring responsibilities. Employers need to be proactive in analysing the roles that are available part time and breaking down assumptions about roles that ‘cannot be done part time’, whether it is due to seniority or volume of work.  Encouraging a positive work-life balance regardless of gender, discouraging presenteeism and providing male and female role models, particularly at senior levels, who live these values can transform the support available to parents – and anyone else who has interests outside the workplace –  and will go a long way to normalising hands-on fathering.  In short, the legislative frameworks are there to support active parenting for mothers AND fathers, but it is workplace culture that dictates whether we are to succeed in offering positive role models of both men and women actively engaged in parenting responsibilities.

Society and education

As an employer, whether locally or nationally, what do you stand for?  How do you wish to be seen as an employer, and how would you like to influence and shape the future for women in your industry or region.  STEM organisations typically present a great example of this, with many taking proactive and laudable measures to encourage young girls and women into what has been a heavily male dominated field.   Your organisation could make a huge difference in ways that not only directly benefit your business, but also set out a clear message for the future of diversity.  Whether you work with schools, charities, or local and national networks – you can actively promote gender diversity through your recruitment messaging, your education and awareness raising initiatives, corporate partnerships, and sponsorships.  For the millennial generation, these play a surprisingly important part in influencing employee engagement levels.  Unlike generations past, they’re typically less motivated by the financial benefits, and more driven by the purpose and values behind the organisation. By adding your weight to the gender diversity movement in the environment around and beyond your corporate walls, you’ll gain in so many ways; attracting a better gender balance to your sector and your organisation, building your reputation as a responsible employer, raising engagement levels within your existing team, and making a real and tangible difference to gender diversity.

Auditing your diversity practices

At great{with}diversity our expert team of psychologists have developed a unique range of questionnaires that focus on the perceived impact and importance of bias in the workplace, thereby enabling organisations to take a root and branch approach to enabling as well as inspiring diversity and inclusion, both in principle and in practice. The reports generated from our online questionnaire will provide deep dive analytics into engagement levels, zoning in on all or specified minority groups, and gaining their specific and honest feedback on what is (and is not) going on in your organisation.  The insight you’ll gain will be instrumental in helping you to consciously build and maintain a culture of diversity and inclusion, whilst ensuring that your resources are directed towards meaningful and impactful change.  Our service is simple, hassle free and cost effective – we require nothing more than the email addresses and names of participating employees.  We’ll deliver the questionnaire directly to their mobile, tablet or desktop, assimilate and analyse the resulting data, and provide you with clear feedback in the form of a detailed, prioritised and solution focused report (see our sample report), complete with our expert advice.

You’ll understand – better than you ever have before – exactly how diversity and inclusion (gender, race, age, disability and much more) lives and breathes through your organisation, and how you can make changes (big or small) that could make for a more inclusive workplace and improved employee engagement levels in every part of your business.  All of which results in happier staff and greater discretionary effort, positively impacting key profit and loss factors such as absence rates, employee turnover, productivity and profitability.

We’re here to help you find out what’s at the heart of your business, from the people at the heart of your business. Making a conscious decision to build inclusion into the fabric of your business will make a measurable difference to your organisation’s success, your employees’ job satisfaction and your business reputation, as well as to important diversity causes in the wider environment. For more information on how to translate inspiration into enablement, words into action, and policy into practice visit or contact us directly.

Exit mobile version