8 March 2015
International Women’s Day is celebrated internationally on 8 March each year. It is a day for recognising women’s achievements but also for acknowledging barriers that women face in achieving “gender equality”. From the workplace perspective, goals for gender equality for women include:
- Increasing participation generally, but also across particular industries;
- Achieving pay equity;
- Ensuring the number of women in leadership positions increases; and
- Eradicating discrimination and harassment against women.
The 2015 International Women’s Day theme is “Make It Happen”. It is timely to reflect on practical ways in which we can make gender equality happen in the workplace:
- Make it a goal – the most senior levels of management can consciously recognise gender equality as part of corporate strategy. This applies equally for both larger organisations and smaller organisations. Depending on the management structure of an organisation, it may require enlisting men to positively champion the rights of women in the workforce.
- Be proactive – identify actual instances of and risk factors for gender inequality in the workplace. This could be achieved in a number of ways such as through targeted reviews, staff surveys or workgroup meetings. Once problem areas are identified, remedial action can be taken.
- Review recruitment and promotion processes – are they fair and equitable? Consider indirect or “hidden” requirements that may discriminate against women.
- Carefully consider how flexible work practices can be achieved – this is relevant not only to women returning to work from parental leave or who have individuals to care for, but also to their partners who may have carer responsibilities while women work. It is also relevant to women who may be discriminated against for other reasons, such disability.
- Aim to eliminate all forms of discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace – discrimination against women can be based on a range of grounds, including sex, family/carer responsibilities, age, domestic violence, disability, race and pregnancy. An organisation can guard against discrimination and harassment through a combination of measures including policies, procedures, employment contracts, training and taking remedial action when an issue does arise.
- Think outside the square – there are always different ways to do things and just because they haven’t been done that way before, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.