ESGgo’s Diversity and Inclusion Series: How to Foster Gender Equality in the Workplace

Practicing gender equality in the workplace is intrinsic for earning a good ESG score. Here are 5 ways companies can foster gender equality in the workplace and do better.

By ESGgo TeamOctober 12, 2022 7 min read

In 2020, women in the U.S. earned 84 cents for every dollar that men earned that year. Evidently, despite the impression of gender equality in the workplace and the emphasis on closing the gender pay gap, there’s still a long way to go to ensure everyone earns their fair share.

In an ideal world, there would be parity in hiring practices, pay, benefits and opportunities for success, no matter one’s gender, race, or identity. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

It’s incumbent upon organizations to figure out how to foster gender equality in the workplace. And the way to begin making a difference is by training the spotlight on the ESG data.

ESG data allows companies to quantify their environmental, social, and governance efforts to reduce long-term risk and work toward greater sustainability. Investors are looking into the ESG data as a reflection of that risk when constructing portfolio’s, comparing companies on their ESG practices. Addressing gender diversity in the workplace is a key component of the “S” in ESG.

This article looks at the different ways to address gender equality in the workplace and discusses the significance of this practice for companies.

How is it really going?

Despite increased attention to the issue of gender workplace diversity, several areas continue to lag. These include women having comparable rates of hire, equal pay, and corresponding opportunities for advancement. 

Because women currently make, on average, 84 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, they would need to work an additional 42 days of work per year to breakeven. 

The gender pay gap is especially significant because of its discriminatory nature. To bring attention to this important issue, the National Committee on Pay Equity started Equal Pay Day in 1966. Equal Pay Day demonstrates how much longer women have to work to achieve pay parity with men. 

But not only are women paid less — they also experience underrepresentation on the corporate ladder. Despite women being more likely to have a bachelor’s degree and having the same attrition rate as men, they’re still less apt to be hired. Women of color represent an even more significant area for improvement in gender workplace diversity. They account for only 4% of C-suite leaders, a number that hasn’t changed significantly over the last few years.

According to McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace” study, even when a woman obtains a job, odds are she’ll experience discrimination, with only 86 women promoted to manager for every 100 men. 
Because women often have to work against the current in many ways, they experience higher rates of burnout than their male coworkers. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, women experienced rates of exhaustion, burnout, and stress that exceeded those of men, causing one in three to contemplate slowing down their professional duties or move on from their current position.

Burnout among employees in the U.S., by gender (Source: Gallup)

5 ways to foster gender equality in the workplace

1. Offer leadership positions

According to the Mckinsey survey, between 2015 and 2020, representation of women in the C-suite grew from 17% to 21%. While it’s an increase, there’s still a long way to go. The survey also points out that women experience slower promotion rates. Providing equal opportunities in senior-level roles is an excellent way to reverse those trends. 

2. Highlight work-life balance

Companies that promote well-being see an increase in retention rates and general employee satisfaction. Providing employees with a good work-life balance gives them time to rest and relax, and increases productivity. That can be especially important for working mothers, who may need parental leave or extra time for childcare.

3. Ensure equal pay

Providing equal compensation to everyone, regardless of gender, brings companies several associated benefits.

Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental right, and adhering to that principle demonstrates a corporation’s commitment to gender equality. Doing so helps create a culture of fairness in which everyone feels appreciated.

Closing the gender pay gap shows social responsibility and can help make the world a better place where everyone gets their fair share. 

4. Consider the proportion of women to men

If a company’s ratio of employees heavily favors men, it may be a good idea to evaluate those figures. Hiring more women and elevating them to leadership positions not only ensures gender equality, but also helps to attract more female applicants who know they have opportunities for growth. And when women see teams with representation from both genders, they feel more welcome and encouraged to take part.  

While there may be industry-specific limitations on the ratio of women to men (like logistics companies that typically hire more men), it’s still an important goal to aspire toward. 

When a company works to promote gender equality, not only does it increase fairness, but it leads to improved financial returns. A study by PwC attests to that fact, noting that logistics companies with a more gender-balanced workforce achieve greater financial success. 

5. Rewrite job listings

Another area for companies to analyze is listings for employment opportunities. Because impartiality starts at the beginning, which is during the recruiting and hiring process, getting things right from the start can attract more diverse candidates.

It’s essential to use employees with diverse qualities and characteristics to conduct interviews, and provide them with in-depth training about biases. That’s because people typically hire those that look like they do, which could lead to male interviewers having bias against female applicants.   

Job descriptions with even one discriminatory word can cause women to look elsewhere, possibly depriving a company of a potential hire. 

Here are a few ways in which companies can hire conscientiously:

What are the benefits?

From a human standpoint, gender workplace diversity ensures fairness and helps workers lead happy and productive lives. 

Beyond that, companies that promote gender equality experience many tangible benefits listed below. 

With so many positive effects on people, society, and financial performance, it’s easy to see why workplace gender equality is such an essential area of focus.
Companies must prioritize gender equality not just to check a box or obtain an ideal ESG score; they must strive to make it a part of their corporate beliefs and actively work to achieve it.