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Gender Equality Leaders: the positive impact of those who are getting it right

May 16, 2022

“After a two-year setback for gender equality in the workplace, it is critical that employers act now”. That’s one of the major messages the recently release Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022 brings out. According to the report, flexible working is only available to 33% of women – and 60% say hybrid working makes them feel shut out. 

On the other hand, there are those organizations that, according to the women surveyed, have fostered genuinely inclusive cultures that support them and promote mental well-being. The report calls them “Gender Equality Leaders”.

Women who work for these companies report far higher levels of engagement, trust, and career satisfaction, and they also plan to stay with their employers longer. They also report more positive experiences with hybrid working, with only 14% saying they have felt excluded from meetings/interactions and only 7% saying they don’t have enough exposure to leaders. Remarkably, only 3% of women working for Gender Equality Leaders reported being burned out, compared to 46% of respondents in the overall sample. 

Women employed by Gender Equality Leaders also receive greater mental health support: 87% say they get adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace.

The question is: how to become a Gender Equality Leader? While there are myriad policies that should be put in place, the authors point to 5 fundamental issues that employers who wish to make progress on gender equality should address. Check this out:

1. Address the burnout epidemic

“Almost half of women feel burned out, and burnout is the top reason why women want to leave their jobs. At a time when employers need to focus on retaining women, failure to address burnout is not an option. While there can be multiple contributing factors, burnout is more likely to occur where there is a misalignment or mismatch between an individual’s expectations and the reality that they experience—including in areas such as workload and recognition. For leaders and managers, identifying and addressing such misalignments or mismatches is critical—as is providing education, techniques, and practical tools to prevent and mitigate burnout. Since burnout is such a significant issue for women at work, failure to address it will undermine organizations’ gender-equality ambitions.”

2. Make mental well-being a priority

“With over half of women saying that their stress levels are higher than a year ago, and almost half describing their mental health as poor/very poor, it is critical that employers address mental health issues. This doesn’t just mean providing support when it is needed—it means focusing on eliminating the stigma that is preventing many women from discussing their mental health with their employers, enabling empathetic leadership, and ensuring that women are able to work in ways that enable them to thrive. Organizations can take a range of steps to support better mental health for all, including educating leaders and managers about mental health and how to spot the signs that someone may be encountering mental health challenges, and directing them to appropriate support routes. Managers should also be encouraged to share lived-experience stories to help remove any stigma around mental health that may exist in the workplace.”

3. Make flexible working work for women

“With just one-third of women saying their employer offers flexible-working policies, and 94% believing that requesting flexible working will affect their likelihood of promotion, it is clear that flexible working remains a challenge for many organizations. This is not just about policies—it is about organizations making a clear commitment to those who wish to work flexibly. They can do this by enabling flexibleworking solutions that work for the individual and the business, and are fully supported by leaders and managers; ensuring that when flexible working arrangement are made, workload is suitably adjusted; and enabling those working flexibly to do so without fear of career penalty.”

4. Approach hybrid working with inclusion and flexibility in mind

“While hybrid working presents an opportunity for employers—and employees—women are already experiencing exclusion and lack of predictability in the hybrid environment. They are also experiencing reduced exposure to leaders—the very people who make decisions about their careers and could provide them with sponsorship opportunities. Employers must work to ensure that hybrid working works for all, not just those who are physically present. This means ensuring that employees clearly understand what is expected of them—for example, through team agreements on ways of working—and training leaders to lead meetings and interactions in a way that includes all present, whether in person or remote. It also means ensuring that those who are not physically present have much-needed access to leaders and sponsors.”

5. Instill a truly inclusive culture

“Women say that the most important step their employer can take to improve gender equality in the workplace is to build a truly respectful and inclusive working culture. Yet our survey has shown that non-inclusive behaviors experienced by women in the workplace have increased since last year, with many women also experiencing exclusion when working in a hybrid environment. And many of those women who experience non-inclusive behaviors do not report them—most notably when it comes to microaggressions. Employers must act now to ensure that their organizations’ everyday culture is always respectful and inclusive—where non-inclusive behaviors, including microaggressions, are not tolerated, and, when they are experienced, women feel able to report them without concern of negative repercussions. This means clear and unequivocal messaging from leaders, accessible routes and clear processes for reporting, and a commitment that all non-inclusive behaviors should be reported without concern of career penalty.”

Source: Deloitte