While progress has been made towards equal treatment of men and women in the workplace, the sad truth is that we still have quite a way to go before we get there. Some people have placed the solution for this problem squarely on women’s shoulders, as if it’s only their responsibility to ensure they are treated like every other employee. We won’t actually achieve gender equality here until both men and women are willing to work towards the same goal. Men are fully capable of influencing how businesses treat women simply by being a catalyst for change themselves.
Women in the workplace face a number of gender biases that interfere with their earning potential, career growth, and sometimes their very reputation. They can be given a lower pay rate than their male counterparts, not be considered for larger or more demanding responsibilities, and be passed over for promotional opportunities. They also face sexual discrimination more than men do and are sometimes treated as maids or secretaries when they actually hold a management level position. If men are able to adjust how they treat women, then companies can except to see an overall improvement in gender equality.
Don’t Make Assumptions
No one, man or woman, likes to be wrongfully judged. Imagine walking in the door of an office and having everyone instantly think you aren’t as good, aren’t as qualified, as everyone else in the room. Men should be able to keep an open mind and perceive each person as an employee. Not a male employee or a female employee. Just a member of the team. Let the person’s work speak for their capabilities. Don’t make assumptions based on appearances and don’t let those assumptions have an impact on treatment.
Men who are in a position to make hiring decisions need to be extra careful when it comes to women applicants. Gender is one of the protected classes. Women cannot be asked sexist questions that you would not ask a male candidate such as if they plan on getting pregnant, if they have kids, how much they weigh, or if they’re married or have a boyfriend. They should be treated as every other candidate and be asked the same set of questions. Some companies have prepared a set of questions to ask to ensure equal treatment. This is something that can be easily implemented and followed by any staff member.
Listen to Ideas
If a woman proposes an idea and a man proposes the same idea, it will usually be better received by the man. It has nothing to do with delivery or intelligence. We’ve been programed to value what men say over what women say, but that’s got to stop if we want equal treatment in the workplace. When a woman speaks up, she has a contribution to make. It isn’t nonsense. It’s a professional opinion and a way to help the company. It should be given due consideration. If someone tries to interrupt the female employee or discredit what she’s saying, male employees can step in and ask her to continue talking. We need to value input from all our staff to make sure all opportunities for growth and success are considered.
I know we just said to listen, but in instances where staff are putting down a woman in the office, it’s your responsibility to stand up and say something, man or woman. Talking badly about a coworker violates business ethics to begin with, but to make lewd comments on top of that impacts a woman’s professional reputation. If even one man is willing to speak up and stop the conversation, it’s a step in the right direction. This goes for reporting cases of harassment as well. It you see something, say something. Men who are willing to stand against sexual harassment set an example that this behavior is not okay. If more are willing to stand up, we can see faster changes in how women are treated.
Be a Mentor
A more active approach to improving the treatment of women in the workplace is by serving as a mentor. As more women are looking to climb the corporate ladder, it helps to know they have someone in their corner they can turn to for advice and industry experience. If men can look past gender and mentor a female worker to reach her highest potential, they can have a huge impact in how women are supported in the office.
It’s not women’s responsibility to ensure equal treatment at work, and it’s not men’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s. The sooner we all get on the same team, the sooner we can start focusing on bigger business problems and not gender inequality.