Tackling resistance to workplace gender equality
By Lydia Cronin
Recent news has covered the experience of Aviva’s CEO, Amanda Blanc, being subjected to a number of sexist comments during the business’ AGM. Additionally, new analysis by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has found that despite ongoing efforts towards workplace gender equality, there is passive and even active resistance to gender equality, particularly from male managers.
The Included team, with experience from a range of organisations through their work with the global diversity and inclusion consultancy, share their responses to this news.
“We all need to take a breath. Many people (especially men) are seeing this as a zero sum game – where some win only at the expense of others. Whilst there are indeed zero game scenarios, some of them are warranted as people who are not necessarily the best candidate for their current position may now feel threatened in light of moves towards greater transparency and accountability.
However, many scenarios are not zero-sum, indeed can be beneficial to all parties, “enlarging the pie” if you will. A more transparent, competitive, labour market is a good thing.”
“For those with the power and who have experienced privilege, the move towards equity and change can feel threatening.
In these cases, explaining to leaders how increased diversity and inclusion can help them personally be more efficient at their jobs by having a greater number of perspectives at their disposal and to support decision making can be beneficial. Framing this lack of diversity as a lost opportunity can demonstrate how they have something personal at stake. Reminding leaders that the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, shows that being consciously inclusive now can put them a step ahead of the competition can increase the likelihood of buy in. It’s crucial that we help these leaders who are actively or passively resisting inclusion to find their personal ‘why’ and understand the need for change from their own perspective in order to bring along in their inclusion journey.”
“There are an increasing number of initiatives centred around advancing women in the workplace. This is about recognising and addressing the unique barriers women face, it’s not about disadvantaging men. There’s space in the office for everyone.”
“In a week of sexist comments directed at Aviva CEO and the US Women’s National Football Team finally achieving pay parity despite their success eclipsing the Men’s Team for 30 years, are we really saying that some of our male colleagues do not feel there is a problem? The ongoing challenge of not being able to solve a problem if you don’t recognise that there is one.
For example, this week, a friend of mine was sent the poster for an event in June where she is a keynote speaker. The other keynote speaker is male. The poster had his full name and Professor title. My friend had to ask them for a new version with her full name but more importantly, her Dr title to be added. They had omitted it. Arguably even more disappointing, the event is being held by an academic institution. The same environment where she received her doctorate. They attributed the mistake to a male student. This reminded me of a disappointing op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about Dr. Jill Biden, published at the end of 2020, that suggested she should drop her ‘Dr’ title.
Can we claim gender equality when we still fail to recognise female achievement and acknowledge it in the same way as their male counterparts. As Adam Grant noted in his response, “Women’s qualifications are less likely to be mentioned by men.” In a study of more than 300 MD/PhD introductions he cited, men introduced 72% of men as “Dr.” but introduced only 49% of women as “Dr.” Women, on the other hand, introduced speakers as “Dr.” regardless of their gender.”
Creating a more inclusive workplace for women and all other protected characteristics requires inclusion to be embedded into how your organisation does business day to day. Discover more about the role of systems, data governance, strategy, and leadership in creating more meritocratic workplaces.
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