Until the 1960s, women were traditionally restricted to specific roles in society, and the workplace was no different. Women were not allowed to work in many sectors, and when employment was allowed, they had limited access to professional opportunities, pay, or promotion. It was also common for employers to justify sex-based job discrimination by suggesting that certain jobs were not suitable for women.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a shift in societal perception towards the roles of women in the workplace. Attitudes began to shift, and there were more women in positions of power.
The 90s saw the rise of diversity awareness. It was a growing understanding that having a diverse workforce could contribute positively to a company's success.
The past three decades have seen significant progress. More women than ever hold managerial positions, and policies have been passed to ensure equality in pay and promotion opportunities. However, there is still a long way to go in some sectors, and the gap isn't fully closed yet. Awareness, education, and investment in training and development can help firms take continued steps towards building a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for all.
What is workplace gender diversity?
Gender diversity in the workplace refers to the distribution of men and women, as well as those who identify as nonbinary or transgender in a company's workforce. A gender-diverse workplace would have an equal representation of all genders, in all positions, across all levels of the organisational hierarchy. However, the reality is that many organisations struggle with gender diversity, with men often outnumbering women, especially in leadership roles.
What does ‘good’ gender diversity look like?
In a gender-diverse workplace, everyone is able to bring their whole selves to work, free of harassment and discrimination. It's an environment where all employees feel comfortable creating and expressing ideas, and sharing insights that help the company grow.
In order for a workplace to truly be inclusive, it must acknowledge and celebrate all aspects of diversity, including gender expression and gender identity.
Why is workplace gender diversity important?
Promoting gender diversity in the workplace comes with many benefits. Research shows diverse workplaces are more innovative, creative, and profitable, with higher employee engagement and productivity levels. With a gender-diverse workforce, a company can access a wider talent pool, which helps to create a more dynamic and diverse work environment that fosters innovation and creativity. Gender-diverse companies are also better able to understand and meet the needs of their diverse customer base.
Ways to promote a gender diverse and inclusive workplace
There are many ways to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including:
1. Reviewing hiring practices and policies to ensure they are inclusive and biasfree.
2. Providing gender inclusivity training for all employees, especially managers and leaders.
3. Encouraging the creation of employee resource groups for underrepresented genders.
4. Reviewing performance metrics to ensure there is no gender-based bias in hiring or promotion decisions.
5. Providing equal pay and benefits to all employees, regardless of gender.
6. Establishing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
7. Foster a culture of respect and inclusion.
Several developments suggest that the future of gender inclusion is promising. To achieve gender diversity, leaders must start by reviewing their current practices to ensure they are free from bias and inclusive to all genders. Ongoing education, training, and leadership engagement are also critical to creating and maintaining a gender-diverse and inclusive workplace. By working collaboratively, organisations can create a workplace that is welcoming and supportive for all employees, regardless of their gender identity.
Download our ‘Inclusion at Work 2022’ report, in partnership with the CIPD. As well as providing an overview of what UK employers are doing to improve inclusion and diversity in their workplaces and the practices they have found to be effective, the survey report highlights where more action is needed.
If you’re looking for assistance with your equality, diversity and inclusion strategy – get in touch with one of our specialists today.