What Is Gender Diversity in the Workplace?
Gender in the workplace is often talked about in the context of pay equity and the #metoo movement. Diversity is another workplace topic that is top of mind for companies trying to be more inclusive and accommodating of individual differences. So, when you hear about “gender diversity” in the workplace it is referring to the equitable distribution between genders across positions and occupations.
What is gender diversity?
Many people think about gender as referring to men and women, but the definition can also be expanded to include physical sex, assigned sex, gender identity, gender role, gender presentation, and perceived gender. In the workplace, the topic of gender diversity is often discussed in the context of corporate boards and certain occupations. Corporate boards are dominated by men. Top leadership positions like President, CEO, and COO are rarely occupied by women. There are also certain fields like engineering, sciences, and math that have struggled for decades to attract and retain women. Gender diversity initiatives aim to bring more balance to all of these issues.
The historical context of gender diversity
The imbalance of men and women in certain positions and occupations is not a new issue. Historically, fewer women worked because their priorities were taking care of the household and raising children. When young women needed to work, they were often given part-time or low responsibility jobs. Employers assumed that they were likely to quit when they got married or had children. Few employers were willing to invest in hiring and promoting women when so few stayed in the workforce long-term. There were also widespread cultural beliefs that women cared more about their family than work and that they were less capable than men. As a result, men have historically outnumbered women in the workforce and have also dominated high-level positions.
Changes in workplace gender diversity
In recent decades we have seen a shift in beliefs and men and women are now thought of as equals. Employers and workplace legislation has changed and discriminating against women is no longer accepted. Organizations are required to provide men and women with equal hiring and advancement opportunities. Sexualizing women has also become unacceptable and against the law.
Gender diversity as a competitive advantage
Organizations have changed their hiring practices to achieve gender diversity requirements and meet cultural expectations. Some employers have also seen gender diversity (and diversity in general) as a strategic opportunity. Research has shown that diversity in the workplace drives employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. Showcasing gender equity can also be a competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment. When an organization has a strong reputation for gender diversity, it will attract top calibre women candidates.
There’s no question that the equitable and fair treatment of men and women is the right thing to do. An organization that has the same opportunities and expectations for men and women is doing the right thing from both an ethical and business standpoint.