The term ‘gender equality’ has been around for some time already. It’s circulated since the genesis of the suffrage movement that took place amongst Western societies in the latter half of the 19th century. Demands for equal pay, equal opportunities for professional success, and equal political power are being realized, albeit somewhat slowly.
What is emerging as a new, and more appropriate, philosophical framework is that of gender equity. It encompasses the basic desires of gender equality, but calls for a slightly varying approach in balancing the scales. Essentially, equity entails the fair treatment of both sexes based on their respective and distinct needs. The end goal remains the same but, for men and women to have a fair and equal chance, the means to get there will vary.
As a healthcare business, there are various policies and strategies that you can adopt to work towards gender equity. These are:
1. Bolster Leadership Opportunities for Women
Ensure that you’re placing an equal number of women in leadership roles as you are men. Studies show that there are more women in supervisory or managerial positions than their male counterparts. However, when it comes to leadership roles, the scales tip in obvious favor of men.
Be wary of prejudices surrounding the professional capacity of women in a healthcare business and instead focus on their merit and drive. It may surprise you how much our unconscious biases influence promotion processes in the workplace.
2. Be Mindful in Meetings
When you and the other members of your healthcare business gather for a meeting, it’s a relatively rare occasion of intentional and focused togetherness. These moments have the potential to act as a fertile soil in the process of cultivating a culture of gender equity.
Be conscious of whether male or female voices dominate and be sure to distribute praise equally. Be aware of the language that is being used—are the pronouns ‘he/him/his’ dominating the conversation?
3. Re-evaluate Recruitment Processes
As much as we would like to believe otherwise, recruitment processes are oftentimes riddled with biases—gendered, racial, and otherwise. Ask for feedback from those who experience your recruitment process and always assume that you have more to learn and fine tune.
After all, your recruitment process forms part of your brand as a healthcare business. It’s therefore imperative that you ensure you’re promoting the message of gender equity to the public.
4. Pledge Gender Equitable Pay
This seems fairly obvious and is almost always at the top of the list of demands when there is a call for gender equity. Men are statistically more likely to negotiate for a better salary than women and are therefore more likely to receive it. Ensure that your salaries get determined by merit and not swayed by assertiveness or a lack thereof.
While you rethink the salaries of potential future employees, you should also re-evaluate existing salaries. By doing so, everyone in your healthcare business can reap the benefits of gender equity. In making your employees feel considered and appreciated, you bolster company loyalty and cohesion.
5. Flexible Working Hours
Although times are changing, research shows that women are still responsible for the majority of childcare duties, and this has huge impacts on their hours of availability. This does not mean that they are any less capable than men, it simply means that their working hours will vary, and this deserves respect.
If you employ mothers, understand that they cannot work into the evenings as they might have to fetch children from school and perhaps cook dinner. Early morning meetings are unsuitable for the same reasons. Negotiate a working schedule that is optimal for both you and your employee and never penalize anyone for meeting the needs of their family—within reason, of course.
6. Prioritize the Process
It’s not enough to want gender equity to be a characteristic or feature of your healthcare business. It has to be a priority. The notion of gender equity has to factor into every decision and policy. Every step of the way you need to be asking yourself whether this or that factor advances or hinders your mission for gender equity.
An important tool in this process is having mechanisms of measurement in place. In order to track the progress and efficacy of your policies, results need to be monitored, understood, and reflected upon. This allows you to refine policies and practices for optimal results.
7. Paternity and Maternity Leave
With the birth of a baby, men generally are the ones discriminated against. They are not typically granted any form of paternity leave, which inhibits them from being present in this precious time. This also adds to stress levels as they feel they cannot support their partner adequately. That said, maternity leave for new mothers is often grossly inadequate and needs serious restructuring.
8. Accountability Culture
To work towards true gender equity, there need to be mechanisms of accountability in place. When it’s made clear that noncompliance is unacceptable and appropriate measures for success are in place, it becomes everyone’s responsibility to work towards a shared goal of gender equity.
9. Encourage Ongoing Training
Rome was not built in a day, just as gender equality is not achievable overnight. Minority groups and women are still facing challenges in almost every business sector. The process of change requires your healthcare company and all its employees to commit to an ongoing re-evaluation of its values and how it strives to realize its goal for gender equity.
You can foster an environment in which everyone is open to the training that’s required to bring about a sustainable change in the workplace. Interactive workshops, group discussions, and seminars are a great place to start.
10. Lead by Example
Remember that at the end of the day, if you do not embody the values of your healthcare business, then you are ultimately undermining the sincerity of its ethos. People are not generally inspired by words and promises as much as they are by action and results.
When you ensure your personal deeds advance gender equity, then your colleagues are more likely to follow suit.
Moving towards gender equity in health care businesses requires a multi-faceted approach. By implementing these 10 steps, you’ll be well on your way to balancing the scales.