For at least a century we’ve heard a familiar narrative about workplace equality. Yet the persistence of inequality, measured in terms of wages, promotions or leadership roles, suggests that critical issues continue to bubble beneath the surface. And as technology progresses and continues to be integrated into the workplace, the story may even worsen, especially for women. In fact, women may be more subject to technology-driven marginalization than other groups. Of the 1.4 million U.S. jobs expected to be disrupted by technology by 2026, 57 percent belong to women.
Before companies can address the persistent state of female underrepresentation in the workplace, their leaders have to understand the impact of unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is defined as social stereotypes towards certain groups of people that individuals create outside their stream of consciousness. But from a former survey Randstad completed, indicated that employers are not doing as much as they could to combat unconscious bias in the workplace.
According to the survey, 54 percent of employees overall say their workplaces could do more to promote gender equality, and less than half of men (47%) and women (45%) consider their companies to be a diversity employer of choice. Additionally, respondents selected the top three company-led initiatives they believe are most effective in tackling inequality issue in the workplace. Here’s what employees (both men and women) want from you:
training on unconscious bias
Less than a third (30%) of employees are offered training on unconscious bias, despite their own beliefs that this would be the most effective initiative for achieving gender equality at work.
The takeaway for leaders: Start the dialogue. Think about how you can present your message tactfully, what training techniques will resonate and how to report success in these undertakings.
- Message: Carefully explain the importance of this type of training. Acknowledge that each person (including yourself) carries unconscious bias, and it does not make anyone a bad person, but simply human.
- Training techniques: Consider leveraging scenarios in training sessions to help employees relate. Create a framework centered on everyday tasks in the workplace such as meetings, team dynamics and professional growth.
- Reporting success: Hold yourself and your peers accountable post-training. Each leader should work towards a goal or action that will help combat biases companywide.
visible metrics that promote gender equality in leadership roles
Employees emphasize a need for gender goals and metrics to promote equality in leadership roles. According to Randstad’s survey, senior leadership opportunities for women remain scarce, and only 54 percent of employees strongly or completely agree their companies have a good representation of female leaders.
The takeaway for leaders: Identify the necessary metrics and processes to ensure all employees are being considered and evaluated fairly for leadership positions. Randstad’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Audra Jenkins, points out, “You must have a strategy in place and goals with what you want to hire for and who you want to develop. Companies fail when they bring in diverse talent, but then don’t develop or advance those individuals. Often times, they get stuck at the door and don’t move up the corporate ladder.”
Quantitative and qualitative metrics may vary depending on your company’s strategic needs. Some examples of metrics may include recruitment, training and workplace climate, to name a few. What do you currently have in place, or what else could you be doing to support the career growth of all individuals equally?
clear policies and commitment to a diverse workplace
Most employees are not oblivious to a company’s ability — or inability — to carry out diversity and inclusion policies. The commitment to equality, even if unspoken at times, can be felt through the overall culture of the company. And in our findings, 32 percent of employees feel strong diversity and inclusions practices are necessary to mitigate unconscious bias.
The takeaway for leaders: It might not be easy and it certainly may not happen overnight, but it’s critical to train employees or hire a diversity and inclusion expert to help establish and move the strategy forward. Internal leadership, with or without the help of outside consultants, should communicate these principles from the top-down. Those who pioneer, explain and exercise the need for diversity and inclusion policies will help employees understand why the shift is necessary. Emphasizing on a strong diversity and inclusion policy in the workplace will help you transition your company into a more culturally competent organization.
Attracting quality talent today is tough enough. But for companies who fail to establish an inclusive workplace, retention will also be a major challenge in the years ahead. The message is loud and clear: Gender equality in the workplace is a priority for women and men alike. Meet these expectations by looking within and asking questions. Does your company truly champion different ideas, backgrounds and perspectives? Are you doing all you can to ensure a level playing field for all employees? How can you improve?
Randstad recognizes its accountability in shaping the world of work.