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The Top 10 Issues Women Face At Work

Courtesy of Catalyst Canada

From offering equal pay to flexible work arrangements, there’s plenty leaders can do to create an inclusive workplace.

1. FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS

Once seen as an employee benefit or an accommodation for caregivers (primarily women), FWAs are now an effective tool for organizations to attract top talent as well as a cost-savings measure to reduce turnover, productivity and absenteeism.

What can leaders do?

  • Switch the focus to productivity and results, and not time spent at the desk.
  • Seek out managers who currently work flexibly and find out what works and what doesn’t.
  • Encourage your own team to be a role model and consider utilizing FWAs.

2. EQUAL PAY

It’s 2017, and women around the world continue to face a wage gap. In fact, women on average will need to work more than 70 additional days each year just to catch up to the earnings of men.

What can leaders do?

  • Ensure that there are no gaps in your workplace by doing a wage audit.
  • Implement a “no negotiations” policy.
  • Support pay transparency.
  • Evaluate recruitment, promotion, and talent development systems for gender bias.

3. RACE AND GENDER BIAS

Everyone has unconscious biases—even the best-intentioned people—which play out in their everyday lives and interactions in the workplace.

What can leaders do?

  • Don’t shy away from talking about uncomfortable or difficult topics. Each of us—regardless of our race or gender—has a role to play.
  • Be open to feedback and learning.
  • If you see harmful behaviour in your workplace, say something. Otherwise, your silence makes you complicit in it.
  • Confront inequities head on through organization-wide strategies.

4. ACCESS TO HOT JOBS

Not all leadership opportunities are created equally, and not all jobs provide the same degree of career advancement.

What can leaders do?

  • Make a deliberate investment to help women colleagues.
  • Model inclusive leadership behaviours.
  • Empower employees to negotiate their roles.

5. ROLE MODELS

You can’t be what you can’t see.

What can leaders do?

  • Be intentional about appointing highly qualified women to your executive team, corporate board, C-suite, and/or CEO position.

6. SPONSORSHIP

Not enough leaders are sponsoring highly qualified women by speaking up on their behalf.

What can leaders do?

  • Recognize that sponsorship is something anyone can do.
  • Carefully and humbly listen to women colleagues, which can help them feel more included.
  • Take a look at your “go-to” people at work; is it a diverse group? Are you looking broadly and deeply for talent? Are women included in the informal activities and socializing that is also important for advancement?

7. SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment remains a widespread problem, with at least one-quarter of women having reported some sort of harassment on the job.

What can leaders do?

  • Develop and implement prevention strategies such as a highly-visible community education campaign.
  • Ensure access to workplace reporting mechanisms.
  • Train managers to report any complaints or observations of harassment.
  • Thoroughly investigate all complaints and take corrective action.

8. NON-INCLUSIVE WORKPLACES

When women (or any employee) feel like outsiders in the workplace because of their unique qualities or differences (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation), they feel excluded.

What can leaders do?

  • Create conversation ground rules and hold yourself and your team accountable for following them.
  • Develop a shared understanding and language about inclusion and exclusion.
  • Sign up for a free CatalystX/edX course, “Communication Skills for Bridging Divides,” to learn simple skills to build more inclusive workplaces,.

9. DOUBLE-BIND

The stereotype that ‘men take charge’ and ‘women take care’ puts women leaders in various double-binds.

What can leaders do?

  • Challenge yourself as to whether you are judging people fairly. Reverse the gender of the person in question and see if it makes a difference in your thinking.
  • Expose employees to peers—including men—who are willing to advocate for women leaders.
  • Provide diversity and inclusion training to help employees understand the effects of gender stereotyping.

10. LGBTQ+ PROTECTION

Misperceptions and exclusionary behaviour can make LGBTQ women feel like the ‘other’ at work, leading them to choose to stay in the closet by not disclosing their sexual orientation.

What can leaders do?

  • Take steps to be a visible ally so LGBTQ women and others will know they can come to you.
  • Protect the psychological safety of LGBTQ women at work (and all employees), which will help them feel more included.
  • Learn more about LGBTQ rights to help build a more inclusive workplace culture and society.


Read the whole article in The Inequality Issue (Fall 2017) of Rotman Management. The magazine offers the latest thinking on leadership and innovation and is published three times a year. 

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