Photograph by David Woolfall—Getty Images
By April Rassa
January 26, 2017

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you play a role in advancing workplace equality?” is written by April Rassa, marketing executive for Progressly.

Large gender gaps still exist in the American workforce, and we should all be concerned about it. Gender equality, after all, is not just a women’s issue. It takes all of us to create an inclusive workplace environment where respect, collaboration, and connections are cultivated.

Companies should focus on these four critical objectives to get men and women alike to champion gender equality in the workplace:

Form discussion groups

One of the ways we’ve begun to address gender inequality here at Progressly is through establishing a Women’s Circle, which is a group of women that meet during lunch or after work once a month. We address topics we all care about—but rarely get to discuss—with other women who face similar challenges. It’s a time to slow down, reflect, connect, get inspired, and support each other.

With the tech industry’s growing focus on attracting more women, we think this forum provides a solid foundation upon which to start a dialogue around change and progress. We have several key women from a variety of departments, including engineering, involved in the group.

Encourage mentorship

Often out of fear of seeming “inappropriate,” men gravitate toward mentoring other men at work. Companies can alleviate this stress by implementing and supporting formal mentorship programs, matching junior women with more senior employees (of both genders) who can provide guidance and advice for advancement.

If your organization is too small or you’re worried about the time commitment, you can start a discussion group like our Women’s Circle. Another idea is to pair a single executive with eight to 10 women at a time, enabling leaders to mentor at scale.

Institute fair policies

Changing outcomes on a scale that will move the needle requires specific policy changes.

First, make sure your employees receive fair first promotions. Across corporate America, women and men enter the workforce at the same rates, but for every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are as well. This first promotion is critical. One way for organizations to make first promotions fair is by using clear and consistent criteria. Human resources leaders should solicit feedback from several management levels to clarify the performance expectations for each job.

 

Second, lengthen family leave time periods. When Google increased maternity leave from eight to 12 weeks, the rate of new mother attrition at the company dropped 50%.

Equalize wages

Companies serious about paying men and women equal wages shouldn’t ask what candidates were paid at their previous job. This practice perpetuates the wage gap that plagues many women and people of color, and assumes that prior salaries were fairly established. If you faced a pay gap and lost wages at your last job due to bias or discrimination, your new employer is now continuing the cycle if they ask you this question.

Instead, every position should have a pay range, with exceptions only allowed in special cases. Employers should also audit their payroll and increase pay for women who have been shortchanged.

Young people today want equality to be respected in their private and professional lives, and see a healthy work-life balance as crucial to their happiness. These demands present a huge opportunity for businesses to help women advance in the workplace.

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