What Can You Do to Close the Gender Gap in Your Workplace?

Learn examples of the gender gap, understand the gender gap index, and find out how to create a more equitable workplace.

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Despite real progress, a major gender gap still exists in workplaces in the United States and around the world. An April 2021 IBM study of 2,300 global organizations found women hold only 18% of senior leadership positions. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) reports women in the U.S. currently make 83% of what men earn.

A lack of leadership opportunities and a disparity in pay put many women at a disadvantage for growing professionally. Even more discouraging, the most recent gender gap index report from the World Economic Forum in 2021 found the COVID-19 pandemic has added 35 years to the time needed to close the global gender gap. It’s now sitting at a whopping 135.6 years.

Gender pay equity can affect everything from employee satisfaction and recruitment efforts to innovation and profits at your company. Learn what causes the gender gap, how to spot it in a workplace, and ways to close the gender gap at your business.

the most recent gender gap index report from the World Economic Forum in 2021 found the COVID-19 pandemic has added 35 years to the time needed to close the global gender gap.

Why is there a gender gap?

Gender gap causes are complex, as people in power have subjugated women throughout history. The Equal Pay Act, which made equal wages for men and women in all workplaces the law, was only passed in 1963. The next year, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.

The AAUW cites factors like race and ethnicity, access to education, age, and disability as factors influencing the gender pay gap.

According to their research about gender pay gaps in the U.S., on average urban areas have slightly smaller gaps than the national gender pay ratio of 83%. Rural areas, however, tend to have larger gaps.

Here are the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest gender pay gap ratio:

  1. New York, NY: $9,500
  2. Los Angeles, CA: $4,600
  3. Chicago, IL: $13,000
  4. Houston, TX: $9,400
  5. Phoenix, AZ: $7,600
  6. Philadelphia, PA: $10,600
  7. San Antonio, TX: $10,400
  8. San Diego, CA: $7,000*
  9. Dallas, TX: $7,300
  10. San Francisco, CA: $13,200

In March 2020, the United Nations Development Programme reported nearly 90% of both men and women around the globe still hold some sort of bias against women.

Employers may look at a variety of causes for gender pay and opportunity gaps at their business. According to the University of Minnesota’s 2021 “Gender Policy Report,” here are some potential gender gap causes.

Discriminatory practices by employers

Employers may offer a lower salary figure to a woman compared to a man with the same job title and duties. Some employers may promote men over women in leadership positions.

Men have consistently earned more than women since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started tracking data in 1979. However, there has been some progress over time. In the 4th quarter of 2021, women’s weekly earnings were 84.3% of men’s.

Below is men’s weekly earnings in the U.S. vs. women’s weekly earnings from 2017-2021.

Disruptions in employment due to childbirth and/or caregiving responsibilities

Women may take time off around a childbirth, or leave work to care for children or aging parents. This can create a gap in their resume. That, in turn, could affect a salary or potential promotions.

Also, according to the BLS, working women with children see a minimal boost in their earnings when compared to working women without children. In 2020, their take-home pay was around $27 more than women in the workforce without children.

However, working men with children saw a much higher salary boost than their counterparts without children. Their take-home pay in 2020 was around $224 more than men in the workforce without children.

Women’s expectations about or personal career/salary history

Salary or career history itself, which may be a result of discriminatory practices, may impact a woman’s ability to advance her pay or position.

An employer may not consciously discriminate against female professionals. But underlying factors like salary and career histories may influence a woman’s potential to grow her career. Being aware of these factors can help you proactively address them in your workplace.

What are examples of the gender gap?

Only 12% of global organizations are making a proactive push toward gender equality in leadership.

The IBM study found that only 12% of global organizations are making a proactive push toward gender equality in leadership. These organizations are outperforming the competition in employee satisfaction, profits, innovation, and revenue growth.

For businesses that want similar results, it’s helpful to identify examples of a gender gap in the workplace. These include:

  • Lack of females in executive leadership and other senior and management roles
  • Unequal pay between genders
  • Salaries determined based on the person, not the position
  • Lack of flexible work options for caregivers
  • Sexual harassment and microaggressions, including insensitive questions or offensive statements related to gender

Businesses can analyze the makeup of their leadership and management teams, as well as salaries based on gender and role, to see where improvements can be made.

How do you address inequalities in the workplace?

When you want to improve gender equity at your business, you can make equality part of your corporate mission. The World Economic Forum recommends the following tactics to create a more inclusive workplace.

Start with recruiting

Adding more female candidates to your recruiting process can widen up the talent pool. You can also use a blind hiring process to eliminate gender bias. This might include including stripping identifying information from a resume. Also, consider making your hiring or interview panel diverse with female representation.

Be transparent with salaries

Since gender salary gaps may occur due to bias or career history, you can offer a set salary for the position, regardless of whom you hire. Publicizing wages based on position can hold your company accountable for offering equal pay for all roles.

Create hiring standards

You can use skills-based assessments and structured interviews to determine whom you hire. A standardized hiring process helps you ensure fairness for candidates.

Place females in mentorship positions

Empower your female employees to become mentors to both men and women. This gives women the opportunity to develop their leadership and communication skills. These are valuable for management and executive positions, so being a mentor can help women grow their careers. You can also provide learning and development opportunities, as well as career growth plans, to help set women up for career success.

Prioritize work-life balance

Gender equality widens after women have children. Employers can mitigate this risk by offering flexible benefits. These might include paid time off for any gender after having a child, remote and hybrid work options, paid childcare, and mental health benefits.

Your business can also offer unconscious bias training for your workforce. This helps your employees identify biases and be more aware of them when hiring, managing, and interacting with employees. Encourage your workers to communicate to their supervisors when they observe gender bias in the workplace, so you can address the issues.

Gender equity supports business growth

Gender inequality in the workplace could cause companies to miss out on hiring and retaining top talent of both genders, as well as lead to missed opportunities in revenue growth and innovation. When you prioritize closing the gender gap at your business, research shows you can outpace competitors in profits and employee satisfaction.

From the recruitment process to workplace policies, it helps to be aware of potential gender gap pitfalls and work to mitigate them. Gather feedback from employees, be transparent about roles and salaries, and develop the women in your organization to build a stronger workforce.

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