When we talk about creating a gender-sensitive workplace, it can be an extremely comprehensive change management initiative which involves programs, policies, and practices. The basic aspect to remember is that our focus should be to create leaders at all levels within the organization who are equipped to lead a workforce that a range of differences.
In order to do so, here are some foundational guidelines to bear in mind as you work towards your goals of a gender-sensitive workplace.
Addressing Unconscious Bias Proactively
Unconscious bias refers to biases of which we are unaware and which is out of our control. Assessing, identifying and addressing unconscious bias is the first step to creating an environment of respect between genders. So make sure to have initiatives and efforts that are related to this. Measure and track the results emerging from these initiatives. For example, consider how you converse with your employees. You speak differently to men and women, don’t you?
Emphasizing On Common Goals
It is important to be aware and respect the differences in the employees and how that will affect in the way they work, deal with conflict, manage teams and so on. However, your role as a diversity practitioner will be to focus on reminding all employees that they are all working towards the common business goals and organizational vision. Therefore unique perspectives are important but working together as a team is imperative.
A Zero-Tolerance Policy On Preferential or Discriminatory Behavior
Having a clearly defined zero tolerance policy on any kind of preferential or discriminatory behavior is critical for all organizations. That is the foundation on which you can define your inclusion approach. Performance and merit should be the drivers and principles for rewarding or not rewarding an employee.
Understanding The Demographic Profile and Working On Policies
Get a good understanding of the demographic profile of your employees and define your policies accordingly. The higher the degree of empowerment you can give to your employees, the more motivating it can be for them. Making provisions to help them balance work and life or coaching their managers for bias-free decision making are important steps to take.
Involving The Leadership
Like any other change management initiative, creating such a work culture also needs leadership involvement, buy-in, and communication. Therefore spending time with the leadership to provide them with information on the same is critical. The higher the leadership’s involvement the better the chances of such initiatives succeeding.
Investing In Diversity Training and Workshops
The training and workshops for the entire workforce irrespective of gender are of paramount importance. It can also be supplemented with simulated examples of work related situations to help the employees understand what might be their own reactions to those.
Having A Good Mentoring and Coaching Program
It is important specifically for managers to have a mentoring program to guide them about their own biases and how to address those. The program should also cover important aspects like the business impact of not having a gender-sensitive workplace or of not having a mixed-gender team.
Given these guidelines in mind, you can work on your roadmap for creating a gender-sensitive workplace. Each of these guidelines has multiple layers, stakeholders, and phases. All of them have a direct or indirect impact on the business. So getting a detailed understanding of each of them and formulating an implementation plan along with milestones and accountabilities is the best way to go about them.
At the core of creating a gender-sensitive workplace is the corporate will and belief that diversity and inclusion truly make a difference to how a business operates and sustains itself. So before embarking on this exercise, make sure that your organizational values, vision, and philosophy resonate with that.