Creating Gender Balance in Your Organization

On International Women’s Day, the last thing you want to hear is workers not taking gender-related issues seriously. But sadly, that’s the current state we’re in, according to new Randstad US survey findings.


Source: thodonal / iStock / Getty

According to the latest Randstad US survey—which examined American workers’ feelings and experiences related to gender equality in the workplace—the data reveals a sharp disconnect: Employees acknowledge that forms of discrimination and harassment exist in the workplace, but they aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do about it.
For example, while 51% of both men and women surveyed say they know a woman who has been sexually harassed at work, 50% admit they haven’t spoken up after hearing a colleague make an inappropriate comment about a person of the opposite sex.
“Despite the serious conversations we’re having around gender in the #MeToo era, our data shows most workers are not as alarmed about these issues as we might think,” says Audra Jenkins, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Randstad North America—in a press release. “The exceptions appear to be Millennials as well as minorities, who were more likely to recognize and report gender discrimination.”

Is the Gender Pay Gap All About Perception?

The survey also discovered that fewer women (73%) than men (85%) believe they are paid fairly—but most don’t care as long as they feel adequately compensated for their work. While most women (61%) would leave an employer if they learned a male counterpart was making more than them, 71% of women say they don’t care as long as they personally feel they’re fairly compensated.
Nearly four in 10 men (36%) feel women should not necessarily earn equal pay if their employers give women more time off than men for family leave. However, with more employers beginning to offer leave to new fathers, this argument may be invalid in the future.

Who Gave You the Power to Sexually Harass Me?

Randstad also found that power and authority often play a role in gender dynamics and sexual harassment in the workplace. Over a third of employees (36%) have seen a person in a position of power take advantage of subordinates of the opposite sex.
While 29% of women report having received unwelcome romantic or sexual attention from someone they report to, versus 20% of men. This number increases to 35% for 18- to 34-year-olds of both genders.
Furthermore, 24% of women believe their careers have suffered because they turned down romantic attention from a direct supervisor. While 57% of women say they’d quit their jobs if a company executive was accused of promoting or providing bonuses, commissions, or career privileges to employees of the opposite sex in exchange for sexual favors, versus 39% of men.

Anything That Disturbs Your Comfort Factor Is Good for You

Professional baseball player and former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals—Tony La Russa—once said that “[a]nything that disturbs your comfort factor is good for you.” Which should be great news for younger employees and male employees who admit to being generally less comfortable around the opposite sex at work.
According to 32% of 25- to 35-year-olds, this age group feels more uncomfortable interacting with the opposite sex at work over the past year, versus 23% of all respondents. While 22% of all employees find it more difficult to take direction from a superior of the opposite sex, that difficulty is more pronounced among 25- to 34-year-olds (39%).
Almost half (46%) of men no longer understand what’s an acceptable compliment to give a colleague without it being potentially misinterpreted as sexual harassment. And furthermore, 46% of men hold negative views of movements like #MeToo and #FeministMovement.

Houston, We Have a Problem

Randstad’s survey also uncovered the fact that most employees aren’t sure how to improve gender equality at work. Respondents cite male advocacy for gender equality and mentorship programs as important steps to improve equality in the workplace.
Over half of all employees (53%) are unsure of what they can personally do to improve gender equality at their workplace. And nearly half (49%) say their employers are not offering mentorship/leadership programs geared toward women, while 51% believe their employers could do more to promote gender equality in general.
Additionally, 75% think having more men who are willing to be vocal about gender equality issues will help create a more equal workplace.
“While there may be some disparate opinions regarding the severity and impact of gender issues in the workplace, it is encouraging to see the vast majority recognize the role supportive male allies can play,” said Jenkins. “Employers should take steps to ensure they’re fostering an inclusive environment where candid but respectful conversations around gender issues can take place and be led by either sex.”

3 Actions That Can Help Progress Gender Balance

If your workforce is looking for ways it can develop a more gender-balanced workforce, Mercer has identified three agenda items that can help:
Pay and promotion. Good intentions are not good enough. What is needed is concerted action to address inequities. A recent Mercer study finds that just 11% of companies use analytics to measure the extent of pay inequities in their organization, and even fewer (5%) deploy modeling techniques to help correct them and prevent them from reemerging.
Correcting pay is vital, but pay is often the symptom—not the cause—of the problem. Perhaps more important is the promotion parity paradox—an issue that weighs more on female executives’ minds. When asked which human capital risks are most concerning, women executives rank “inadequate workforce/leadership diversity” among the top three; their male counterparts do not.
Mercer’s When Women Thrive research notes that the ranks of women thin out long before they reach the upper echelons: women make up just 33% of managers and 26% of senior managers. Additionally, when women get to the top they lead differently from men.
According to Mercer’s Global Talent Trends study, women focus more on aligning people strategy with the business (91% vs. 78%). They also place more emphasis on the employee experience, ranking it top in terms of potential return on investment for the company (compared to “simplifying talent processes” for men), and say that using analytics to discover what drives engagement is most value-adding (while men say build/buy/borrow data).
Providing an environment for women to thrive. There are clear differences between men and women in motivation for joining a company. Mercer’s study shows female employees are more likely than their male peers to say work/life balance helps them thrive at work (59% vs. 48%). Female employees also identify “workload” as the number one reason for an unhealthy work environment (compared to “corporate culture” for men).
And while job security is the main reason all employees stay with their employer, this is followed by medical insurance and flexible hours for women, but not for men. Retirement should be considered, as well. While three-quarters of all employees intend to work post retirement age, the reasons differ by gender: financial necessity is what drives women (one in three women say this), whereas to occupy time is men’s main aim.
If you’re looking to make your workforce more gender-balanced consider the three action items listed above.