52% of men believe that workplaces are equal and women have just as many opportunities as them. Yet, numbers tell a different story. According to Canadian census data, women make 74% of what men do, on average. 3% of CEOs in Canada are women. Women hold 22% of C-suite jobs and 38% of management jobs. With numbers like these, it’s difficult (if not impossible!) to deny the gender gap is real. Don’t believe us? Check out the study. But the real question is: what can we do about it? Fortunately, there’s lots we can do to combat inequality! Everyone, male or female, can contribute. Here are 5 things all companies can do to close the gender gap.
1. aim for 50/50 representation when hiring
Women make up 50% of the population (actually slightly more!) So why does it remain such a novelty to have 50/50 representation in workplaces? How is it possible that we continue to have ‘first woman to…’ or ‘gender parity’ announcements make the news? In 2015, a mere 4 years ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines for being the first Canadian Prime Minister to have a gender-balanced cabinet. This should not be news. It should be the norm. Let’s work toward a reality where men and women have representation that matches their numbers in society. Make it a priority to hire women at all levels of experience. We assure you there are plenty of talented, qualified women in every possible profession just waiting for their chance to shine.
2. be transparent about pay
When pay is treated like a closely guarded secret, women are the ones who suffer most. The average woman in Canada is paid 74 cents on the dollar. When pay is kept quiet, this cycle perpetuates. Often, women don’t realize they’re being paid less than their male counterparts, so when it’s time to ask for a raise, it’s not even a consideration to ask for equal pay for equal work. And many companies aren’t likely to offer up this information if it means increasing their costs. Even when women are aware of egregious pay differences, it's difficult for them to speak up and negotiate for more money. Men are praised for being tough negotiators and getting their worth. Women fear being labelled demanding, difficult, or money hungry if they’re too focused on their pay. Transparency is a proven strategy to shrink the salary gap. In one study of companies with salary transparency, women made 90% of what men did. It’s not perfect, but it signals a huge improvement on the average.
3. invest in female potential
Invest in the female leaders of tomorrow. Women are willing to work just as hard as anyone else when given a chance. They simply need someone to believe in them and raise them up. It’s important to start this process early. Young women who are just entering the workforce have the smallest wage gap compared to their male counterparts. They’re also the most hopeful about the future and their potential to become leaders. Investing in women early, and helping them develop the skills they need to become leaders when they’re just starting out promotes equality down the line. When women are given the skills to succeed early, they carry that with them throughout their career. They’re also put in a position to support other women who come through the pipeline after them.
4. make diversity a part of your core values
Your company’s core values matter. You might think they’re just words, but words have power. Most companies take great pride in their core values and repeat and reinforce them on a daily basis. That repetition alone is important. Repeating an idea, such as the importance of diversity, normalizes it. And really, diversity should be our normal. Maybe one day we won’t have to talk about diversity and how important it is; it will be a given. Until that day comes, be one of the change-drivers. Make diversity a core part of your corporate identity and brand. Diversity is good for business, too. When you’re viewed as a forward-thinking and inclusive employer, it's easier to attract smart, up-and-coming Millennial and Gen Z workers, who prioritize working for socially responsible organizations more than previous generations.
5. provide networking opportunities
Who you know is important for career progression. You might be perfectly suited to a leadership job, but if you don’t have the right connections, your progress can grind to a halt. Harvard Business Review determined that lack of access to informal networks was one of the primary barriers to women advancing in the workplace. Women are less likely to have a large network they can draw on for support when climbing the corporate ladder. They’re also less likely to have a relationship with senior leaders in their own organization. Help the women on your team expand their professional networks by introducing them to (and having them work on projects with) executive leaders and providing opportunities to expand their professional networks externally via conferences, networking events or online communities.