How to Build Gender Diverse Inclusion
Equalizing the distribution of men and women is a priority for many employers. Many are making strides to be more gender inclusive through hiring and selection practices. However, with all that time and energy spent on getting women through the door, few companies are thinking about how to keep them. Understanding how to retain women is critical to maintaining the gender balance in the workplace.
Creating an inclusive work environment is the only way to sustainably maintain gender diversity in the workplace. Without strategic decision making and an ongoing effort to create an inclusive environment, women will not stay. If inclusiveness ends with hiring practices, then a company will not meet its diversity goals.
By making some basic changes in workplace design and policies, companies can be more gender-inclusive:
Gender-neutral bathrooms - Providing gender-neutral bathrooms is a necessary part of a truly gender-inclusive environment. The definition of gender is not limited to men and women, but also includes physical and assigned sex, gender role, identity, and presentation, as well as perceived gender. One way to provide private, gender-neutral bathrooms is to have stalls that are enclosed from floor to ceiling. This type of arrangement provides an environment where all employees can feel comfortable and included.
Accommodations for working parents - Many employers provide maternity leave, but this is gender-specific to women. A parental leave policy is more inclusive and provides the same benefits to any employee caring for a child, including adoptive parents. Other workplace accommodations for working parents include on-site daycare and dedicated nursing rooms.
Gender-neutral language - All company policies and employee communications should avoid the use of “he” and “she”. “They” is the accepted gender-neutral pronoun that is inclusive of all employees. Gender neutral policies may also be necessary should they need to be legally enforced.
Changes to workplace facilities and company policies are critical steps towards gender inclusiveness. However, creating an inclusive workplace is also about day-to-day actions and behaviours. Do not assume that people know how to facilitate inclusiveness. Many people are unaware of their unconscious biases and may need gender awareness training to better understand themselves and others.
Creating a gender-inclusive work environment and supporting all people equally is good for employees and the company. By understanding the business benefits of inclusive and diverse work environments, more employers will make it a priority. Inclusivity isn’t just about doing the right thing, it is critical if employers want to achieve superior business outcomes. It is the improvements in retention, profitability and productivity that will convince more companies to invest in creating gender-inclusive work environments.