Tara Turkington from Flow Communications outlines eight ways leaders can help address gender inequality in the workplace.
Gender inequality remains rife in South Africa as it does around the world. Research shows that teams that are diverse and inclusive are more productive, more innovative and more profitable.
Here are 8 tips to build gender inclusivity in your business
Employ more women in management positions
The number of women in management positions is shockingly low all over the world, across all industries. According to PWC’s 2021 Executive Directors Report, only 13% of executive directors (81 women in total) in JSE-listed companies currently are women. Whichever industry you look at, including the agency world, numbers are similar.
As an agency leader, commit to improving gender equity at a management level: build a strategy and implement it. It might not happen overnight, but change starts with identifying an issue and commitment to addressing it.
Create a mentorship programme for women in your organisation
Numerous studies have shown that formal and informal mentorship increases the likelihood of a woman going further in her career. Interestingly, a recent study on women in the public sector in South Africa found that this was true no matter the gender of the mentor.
Create a strategy to hire young women as interns and junior staff
Before women can be in high-level positions, they need to start somewhere. Create a strategy that will ensure you are hiring a high number of young women into your agency, and that they are adequately trained and supported.
Give women platforms to share their ideas in the workplace, irrespective of their status
Women often find it harder to speak up in the workplace because they may not have the confidence or cultural capital to do so. Make it easy for them by building opportunities for them to share ideas, and to build confidence on platforms where they feel safe to speak.
Check your unconscious bias
Unconscious biases are assumptions or attitudes we may not be aware of, that may reinforce stereotypes. Examples of unconscious bias around gender include thinking it’s OK to pay women less than men, or believing blonde women are stupid. Here’s a useful list of 19 types of unconscious bias to check your own attitudes against.
Speak up for gender equity
Make it clear in your company values statement that you treat all genders the same, so this is clear to everyone and so the company can be held accountable if this doesn’t happen.
Invest in girls’ education and development
Focus your BB-BEE budgets and your mentoring programmes on funding the education and training of young girls, especially black girls, who are the most disadvantaged of all in South Africa.
Take a girl child to work
Expose girl children to career choices and opportunities they may not otherwise be aware of as often as you can. Create job-shadowing opportunities and ad hoc internship opportunities for girls.