Don’t Ask the Only Woman in the Meeting to Take Notes

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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 Sarah Andresen, head of people science at Fairsail.

The United Kingdom put regulations in place this month to combat the pay gap by requiring companies with 250 employees or more to openly share data around their pay. This unprecedented transparency happens as new research here in the U.S. shows that after nearing parity in 2010, the gender pay gap for 25- to 34-year-olds actually widened over the last seven years.

The pay gap continues to be a massive problem in the U.S. and is largely a reflection of our differing expectations of men and women at work. I’ve seen firsthand how commonplace those stereotypes are. My husband was recently transferred to London for work and I went with him. We’d always wanted to live abroad and were excited about the move, but when I started telling friends and family about it, I was surprised by their response. They know that I’m career-driven, but most assumed I was going to stop working once in London.

There are of course many more factors beyond perception that contribute to workplace inequality, but we must focus on the actions that everyone—from the manager to the employee—can take to level the playing field. This starts with being cognizant of the inequality that still exists in the workplace. But with this greater awareness, we must identify the necessary actions to take to address it.

Look at your culture

For managers, being able to address inequality means evaluating the kind of atmosphere you’re promoting. Are you unintentionally perpetuating inequality, for example, by asking the only woman in a meeting to take notes? Are the women on your team always asked to organize the team happy hour? Do company leather jackets only come in men’s sizes? Deliberately spend time reflecting on your unconscious bias and how it may play out at work, so that you can then work on adjusting your mindset.

Address pay gaps

Pay inequality can also come about unintentionally. I’ve managed a lot of different people, but only the men have been assertive about compensation and career progression. Managers often react favorably to conversations about pay increases, but a lot of times the only people asking for an increase are men. To help remove situational bias, managers should use technology that can objectively and quickly analyze an organization’s people data to identify any gender pay gaps. Then a plan can be put in place to right those inequalities. If you don’t have access to this information now, request it from human resources.

At times, women can worry that asking for a raise will look ungrateful. I share that discomfort with compensation conversations, but it’s important to recognize that fear and then set it aside. Use resources like Glassdoor to gather external salary information and benchmark your internal performance, so you can use both sets of data to make a confident case for a raise. If your company is using an HR system to measure performance, ask for transparency in its benchmarking. It is important to consider pay differences when making decisions on your career path. Review external data to understand how your career choices will impact your pay.

Talk to your partner

If you’re in a relationship, you may also want to have conversations with your partner about how you’ll balance prioritizing your careers. If you want your career progression to have the same amount of importance as your partner’s, discuss how you’ll make that work together. For many couples, this requires a change in thinking: It’s not always possible for both people to make those choices at the same time. With my own relationship, we chose to move to London for my husband’s work, but we’ve talked about my career driving our next decision.

Ultimately, workplace inequality reflects how society has been structured for a long time. There are no easy solutions. Men and women alike must make a deliberate effort to change these norms.

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