How to Be a Gender Equality Ally

We’re going to talk about gender equality.

It’s going to be awkward, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but it is worth your time to talk about. Let’s assume for a moment that we all understand that addressing gender equality is the morally right thing to do, and take a look at the fact that it’s just good business.

According to Gallup, retailers with a gender-diverse workforce generate 14% higher average revenue. And according to the Harvard Business Review, gender balanced units are 23% more likely to show an increase in profit and 13% more likely to deliver consistent organic growth. Research also points to gender diverse teams being more productive than their homogeneous counterparts. So addressing gender issues can raise revenue, improve growth, and make your teams more productive.

Oh and again, let’s not forget that it’s the morally right thing to do.

The good news is that businesses are making strides towards fixing gender issues, the bad news is that there is still a long way to go. The world around us is in a pitched battle for gender equality in the workplace and in hiring practices.

Think you’re in the wrong demographic for that fight? WRONG. You can and you must do your part. I put together three strategies that can help you and your company improve on gender issues. They are certainly not all inclusive, but they are a good starting point.

Strategy One: Beware of Cognitive Dissonance

Do you believe there are gender-inequality issues in your workplace? Probably not, right? 90% of men don’t believe there are gender-inequality issues at play in their workplace. We can acknowledge that it’s a big problem, just not one we should personally deal with.

Why is that so? It’s not personal for us like it is for our women team-mates. Since it isn’t personal, it’s difficult for us to confront the issue and even acknowledge it – that’s called Cognitive Dissidence. What is Cognitive Dissidence? It is the phenomenon in Psychology that explains that we don’t like to change our minds when faced with information contradictory to our views – i.e. we pretend a problem that we don’t feel personally doesn’t exist because it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t have skin in the game, therefore our brains trick us into thinking there is no game at all!

How do you deal with Cognitive Dissidence? If a team-member – woman or not – tells you there are gender-inequity issues, believe them. The problems are probably there and you just can’t see them. Take adequate time to investigate thoroughly, and try to pull yourself out of your own perspective.

Strategy Two: Actively Engage

Do you have an Equality and Diversity Czar? Does that person have proper authority and access to hiring practices and promotion plans? One of the most important lessons I learned in my military days is that without someone responsible, nothing will get done.

Until you get that person in place, talk to the women on your team. I guarantee they are more likely to see gender inequality problems, new or old, than a man would.

As a recruiter, I would be remiss not to mention auditing the hiring process for gender diversity. The more women in your organization, with leadership and management roles, the quicker the rest of the problems disappear.

Strategy Three: Build Programs

The best way to solve problems, is to make sure they don’t happen in the first place. That means putting together structures and programs that combat collective subconscious sexism.

There has been a lot of research on internally transparent pay-structures. Putting one in place and implementing it correctly can prevent systemic pay inequality.

Salesforce’s corporate headquarters has put together a rule about executive and leadership teams requiring a minimum amount of gender diversity. This rule is easily replicable, and we’ve seen how well it works at Salesforce.

My last recommendation is to put something on your calendar. If you operate like me then if it isn’t on your calendar then it doesn’t happen. Block off regular brainstorming sessions for your team to talk about gender equality practices and make that meeting repeat on a regular basis.

Welcome Fellow Ally

Fixing gender inequality issues in the hiring process and workplace in general is the right thing to do. And even if it wasn’t the right thing to do, it would be good for your top line revenue and bottom line costs. Be wary of cognitive dissidence, actively engage, and build programs.

Men of the working world, don’t just be an ally in the fight for gender equality – be an advocate.

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