The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day campaign is ‘embrace equity’. But what is gender equity, and how can we achieve it in the workplace, to the benefit of businesses?
Equity vs equality
The easiest way of describing the difference between equity and equality is that equality is the end goal and equity is how we get there.
Gender equality is giving all genders equal treatment when it comes to rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Gender equity, meanwhile, is about fairness. To ensure everyone has equal opportunities, we need to consider privilege, bias and other parameters that can limit how people access opportunities.
Inequality has a price
Gender inequality has widespread consequences. Globally, women account for only 38% of human capital wealth. In fact, inequality is costing us all. The World Bank Group estimates that if women had the same lifetime earnings as men, global wealth would increase by $23,620 per person, on average, in the 141 countries studied, for a total of $160 trillion.
This inequality is clearly visible in business; aside from the gender wage gap, women are less likely to progress into leadership positions. According to McKinsey’s annual ‘Women in the Workplace’ report, for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of colour. It has also been shown that women of child-bearing age and women with children are less likely to be considered for jobs.
With gender inequality still prevalent today, organisations have a responsibility to their employees. So, what can we do to change the narrative?
The path to equality is built on equity
Research suggests we’re amid a “Great Breakup.” Women are leaving companies and switching jobs en masse and it’s having consequences for organisations who can’t keep up.
To promote gender equity, we should understand that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to employee wellbeing isn’t sufficient if we want to optimise talent retention. We should listen to what women want from an employer, most of which fits into three categories: diversity, flexibility and education.
Female leaders tend to want to work for companies that are diverse, inclusive and prioritise employee wellbeing. Diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are so important to women but 40% say their DE&I work isn’t acknowledged in performance reviews, and spending time and energy on work that isn’t recognised makes them feel burned out. Diversity encourages diversity, and this is why it’s important to women; when there’s representation at the top of the hierarchy, women are more likely to be promoted.
Offering flexibility, whether that’s hybrid working or shiftable working hours, entices more women to join an organisation. However, with reports suggesting flexible working patterns also burden women with an increased workload, it’s important that this is implemented correctly. Flexible working should still promote choice, giving an employee power to decide what is best suited to their needs.
Lastly, education is key to promoting gender equity. Unconscious bias training makes us all aware of prejudices we might be sharing without realising and encourages us to call out discriminatory behaviour. Furthermore, employee learning and development courses, like ones we have at IQ-EQ, can empower women to put themselves forward for leadership positions, and give them the tools to succeed.
An equal world should be equitable
Promoting gender equity comes with financial incentives too. Companies with a greater proportion of women in senior leadership and C-suite roles earn a 47% higher rate of return on equity compared with companies who had no women executives.
In the finance sphere, equity represents the value that would be returned to shareholders if all assets were liquidated and the debts were paid off. It presents an opportunity for reward, sometimes an investment – and the same mindset can be applied when discussing the implications of gender equity.
Equity is the investment, equality is the reward, and we all make a profit.