Bias breeds discrimination
There is also an unconscious gender bias which remains throughout organisations. While public policy changes that have been implemented and initiatives put forward to reduce gender inequality, a cultural change in businesses is required to underpin these policies.
While policies are the backbone to ensuring that equality is improved at work, unless they are combined with a change in workplace attitudes and removing the unconscious bias which exists, then discrimination will still remain.
HR departments need to ensure that the workplace as a whole, is supportive and has an inclusive culture, which is strict on its intolerance of any form of discrimination or harassment.
Leaders should demonstrate the expectations they have for the workplace, and communicate these effectively to the workforce – embedding it in the culture of the organisation.
When hiring, HR professionals need to ensure they hire jobs based on ability, not gender. Often, there is a common misconception that women are suited to certain job roles, while men are seen to excel in leadership positions.
Look at the fact that the UK has only just got a second female Prime Minister, and the US is yet to see a female President.
Women in leadership
With executive roles held by women currently at 10 per cent –16 per cent less than directorship positions – it’s clear that more needs to be done to grow the next tier of female leaders.
Employers need to do more to ensure that their talent pool internally has a number of female leaders within it. Mentoring programmes and clear development pathways for all employees should be made a priority from day one.
There is a lot of attention in the media focused on the pressures women face in the workplace, and this viewpoint can become ingrained in women leading them to become worn-down by the biases they expect to face at work.
HR departments are essential in challenging and changing this view – whether it’s through innovative policies at work, implementing a culture change or empowering women – if HR professionals can’t stand up for gender equality at work then who will?
About the author
Caroline Griffiths is the managing director at Bradfield HR.