In the wake of recent social movements, such as #MeToo and the ongoing controversy, particularly in reference to recent political events in the US, there is now an inherent distrust between genders.
The state of trust between the genders in the workplace is now a serious issue and requires particularly close attention from those in leadership positions. There are many issues still causing women to feel less valued in the workplace, including disparities in pay, too fewer women in senior positions compared to men and loss of trust in leadership when negative or toxic workplace cultures are allowed to fester.
One of the key issues in the workplace, across the majority of industries, is the lack of women in leadership roles, particularly at a senior level. As a result, there is often a less balanced voice for the whole workforce at board level, which can lead to decisions being made which do not consider the needs of everyone, rather than one group of people.
It is important to ensure representation at board level in particular, as the decisions made here guide the whole direction of the company. Failure to diversify at board level often causes a waterfall effect where the hiring in the wider company reflects this. As a result, a company will see less creativity and fewer varied ideas which can halt or slow productivity, resulting in failure to appeal to a broad client base.
For women to feel comfortable and confident in the workplace, they need to trust their leadership. So apart from ensuring representation, we should also expect leaders who are not female to understand how the current political and social climates are affecting women. Through doing this they will be able to create a better workplace, that considers the needs of both men and women, which will entail different requirements, and ensure that both are offered equal opportunities.
Where trust is built, your workforce will likely work harder, feel more compelled to be creative and have a passion for supporting the business. Leaders should be able to understand the issues which women have faced in the workplace, both now and historically, in order to make efforts in the present to provide positive experiences and build a company that feels safe. It is also important to be transparent in company process, beyond ‘what is expected’, and ensure that your business enforces equal pay, fair holidays and sick time and creates a flexible working environment that caters for both men and women with children, disabilities or long-term illness and other personal circumstances.
It has been disproven that there is such a thing as the ‘ambition gap’, therefore employers should be very conscious of presuming the ambition of an individual based on gender. Historically, too many employers have presumed the ambitions of women are not level with those of their male employees, which has ultimately lead to a low number of women in senior management.
Research has proven that women’s expectations today are higher than ever, however, the issue arises when they are routinely disappointed, which has not been isolated to just one industry. This results in distrust in their leadership and impatience to see visible progress. Leaders who will see the best results from their workforce will have worked closely with anyone who displays or voices the desire to progress and ensure that their talents are nurtured through a multitude of channels. This will help to reduce scepticism which surrounds progression for women and can help create positive experiences which will, in turn, attract more highly skilled women to your business.