Gender equality in the workplace has made strides in recent years, but there is still a long way to go before we achieve full equality and inclusion and we must continue to discuss it.

According to the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law 2022 Report, 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work. The WBL Index improved the most in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa in 2021, although they still lag behind the rest of the world.

And even among women in positions of power, many feel forced to apologise for juggling a family life. According to a McKinsey report, there is a gap in the burnout between women and men which almost doubled in 2021.

We will only achieve gender equality if we have equal incentives, resources, and opportunities. Not only are more job searchers prioritising jobs at companies that value diversity and inclusion, but customers are now making purchasing decisions based on a company’s culture and ethos.

In this article, we speak with industry experts and ask them to share their thoughts on workplace equality and inclusion.

Create environments where women can thrive
In 2022, we shouldn’t have to be having conversations about gender in the workplace. But the fact is that there are differences in the way women experience the world and the workplace which impact how we lead, interact with others, and how we handle challenges. These differences should be recognised and celebrated because they bring diversity and dynamism to the workplace.

“I am particularly passionate about creating environments in which women can thrive. This means creating an organisational culture that supports women in reaching their full potential and encouraging, growing, developing and nurturing them along every step of the way,” says Anine de Wet, Client Service Director, Hoorah Digital.

De Wet feels strongly that women need to do a better job of supporting other women in the workplace.

“A big part of this support is making room for women, and mothers in particular, to manage motherhood along with their professional obligations. In its simplest form this means flexible working hours, and judging a woman’s competence on her output, and not the number of hours she is in office” De Wet says.

Next-generation mentorship
It is essential for us as women in the workplace, regardless of our profession or industry, to  embrace diversity and ensure that women are given a platform to have their voices and ideas heard.

“One of the best parts about working in digital is that we are invariably “living in the future” every day. We are changing the way people connect, bank, and shop. It is our responsibility to mentor and train the next generation entering the workforce to ensure they understand the value of education and empowerment and that their power is based on their ability, skills and ideas rather than their gender and old fashioned stereotypes,” explains Dori-Jo Bonner, Strategist at Striata Africa.

Create a space that embraces inclusion and diversity
Women and girls represent 50% of the world’s population, according to the United Nations. This represents at least half of the world’s potential yet a 2019 World Economic Forum Gender Gap report found that, despite this, it will take at least another 99.5 years to reach gender parity. And this number has only increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 exacerbated gender disparity, especially for women in underdeveloped or developing markets,” says Sandra Kneubuhler, Country Director of Sales and District Director, South Africa for Radisson Hotel Group. “So just as we’ve had to adjust to work from home, hybrid working and more, we need to adapt our gender equality goals and the conversations around gender parity.”

This means giving all genders a platform and encouraging ambition, positivity and work-life balance. “So often, the view is that men are ambitious while women are too bold or out of line,” says Kneubuhler. “But in an ideal world, we would be viewing everyone with the same lens. My advice to women in the workplace is to embrace your ambition and be bold without forsaking your compassion and kindness.

“It’s this – the need to respect individual differences, life experiences and diverse world views – that drive a company’s success and at Radisson, we’ve embedded it into our human resources policies and even our guest experiences.”

Tech as an enabler to close the gender pay gap
Technology has long been lauded for its ability to help close the gender pay gap and to provide employment to people – and women – who previously would have struggled in this regard. Apps such as Airbnb and SweepSouth, for example, have been catalysts for change when it comes to creating income opportunities for women.

A report released by Airbnb last year noted that the Airbnb platform is lowering barriers to entry and welcoming new Hosts onto the platform by empowering groups typically excluded from the benefits of tourism, like those living in rural and township communities. And it is greatly benefiting women as female hosts make up more than half of the Airbnb host community.

On-demand home services app, SweepSouth, is also leading the charge in this regard. CEO and Co-founder Aisha Pandor notes that those finding work through their platform can take advantage of 100% of the opportunities that they are exposed to.

“When you’re dependent on finding work opportunities through what the people around you have knowledge of, it becomes extremely difficult to have access to opportunities that could improve your employment situation,” says Pandor. “Technology is one of the most powerful enablers of connectivity and through our platform we wanted to leverage that potential to ensure that domestic workers are able to connect with as many employment opportunities in the most convenient way possible.”

The platform allows domestic workers, who are predominantly women, to earn higher than market rates while giving them the power to choose who they take work from, where, and at times that suit them – an opportunity that puts control back into the hands of a group that is often exploited and underpaid.

Foster a culture where all opinions matter
A fascinating exercise which really underscores the gender gap is to ask your friends which of them has Imposter Syndrome. “It’s far more common than you think, but nine times out of ten it’s women who experience it rather than men. The fact that women still don’t feel like they’re worthy, in positions they’ve either worked hard to get or in businesses they’ve created from the ground up, is shocking. There is still so much work to be done, but there is one very simple way to shift the narrative and empower women: make sure they’re in the room and that their ideas are heard,” explains Hayley van der Woude, Managing Director at Irvine Partners, a 100% women-owned and women-led business.

In addition, it’s crucial for businesses to foster a culture where all opinions matter. “ It sounds obvious but it is surprising how subtle undermining someone can be,” says van der Woude. “ Leaders need to take active steps to ensure their whole team is on board with hearing people out and then taking their ideas forward or sharing constructive feedback. This empowers anyone in the team — men, women, young, old — to put forward innovative ideas at any time. In this vein, we ensure that our performance evaluations are two-way sessions focusing on growth of the individual but also hearing from them what the company could do better. Often, our best projects, programmes or ways of working stem from these sessions and it helps us retain our edge.”

The future of work
The future of work must be inclusive for all, and businesses need to prioritise diversity and equality to eliminate institutional bias. Those that do will undoubtedly be in a stronger position to succeed.

Submitted by Irvine Partners