There has been considerable progress toward gender parity in the workplace. How women are treated in the workplace, however, remains a different story.
Consider, for instance, the results from a Pew Research Center survey, which show the gaps in perceptions about how women are treated in the workplace and how much attention is paid to increasing gender diversity. Most women who work in majority-female workplaces say women are usually treated fairly where they work when it comes to recruitment and hiring (79 percent) and in opportunities for promotion and advancement (70 percent). Smaller shares, but still majorities, of women who say their workplace is balanced in terms of gender say women are treated fairly in these areas.
Women who work in majority-male workplaces, on the other hand, have a different perception. Of the respondents indicating they work in a predominantly male workplace, only 48 percent say women are treated fairly when it comes to recruitment and hiring. Even fewer (38 percent) say women are treated fairly in promotions and advancement.
The survey—conducted between July and August last year—also found that of those women working where they are not equally represented in the workforce, they report they are more likely to be treated as incompetent (37 percent) and less likely to receive support from senior managers (24 percent). Even more troubling, while almost half (49 percent) of the women who say their workplace is mostly male say sexual harassment is a problem at work, 28 percent said they have experienced it first-hand.
It isn’t likely that the reported discrimination can be attributed to demographic differences between women in primarily-male and primarily-female workplaces, according to the Pew research, as all those surveyed were of a similar median age and comparable educational, racial and ethnic backgrounds. That then begs the question: What is the source of this gender inequality?
Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer at Accenture, says corporate culture may be one answer. For there to be true equality, company leaders need to set the standard and create an environment where it’s clear that people will be treated equally, she says in a recent Forbes article.
In the latest installment of Accenture’s “Getting to Equal” research—just one piece of the firm’s ongoing initiative to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025—Shook and Accenture’s CEO for North America, Julie Sweet, surveyed more than 22,000 men and women from 34 countries. Their research identified 40 factors most prevalent in cultures of equality. These factors can be categorized into three areas, and when taken together, they nurture a culture of purpose, accountability, belonging, trust and flexibility, Shook and Sweet say.
Those categories are: bold leadership, identified by a diverse leadership team which sets, shares and measures equality targets openly; comprehensive action, identified by policies and practices that are family-friendly, support both genders and are bias-free in attracting and retaining people; and an empowering environment, identified when the organization trusts employees, respects individuals and offers freedom to be creative and to train and work flexibly.
When these dynamics are at work in an organization, the results are remarkable, Shook and Sweet say. For example, women in these workplaces are nine times less likely to experience sexual discrimination or harassment, and are 35 percent more likely to advance into management. From there, the probability of being promoted into more senior leadership roles increases fourfold.
“Doing one thing or even five things are important,” Shook says in the Forbes article. “But when you do the things that are most significant in the three categories, collectively, that’s when you see the real acceleration of change.”
What do you think about gender parity? Are women treated fairly in recruitment and hiring as well as in opportunities for promotion and advancement where you work?