HR and Workplace Gender Inequality

HR is pivotal in ensuring that women are well-represented in their organisations and paid fairly.

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Workplace Gender Inequality
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Establishing gender equality in the workplace has been an uphill task despite gender bills being passed in many countries. The promise has been unfulfilled and workplace gender inequality has increasingly become a thorny discussion subject. However, gender representation has been improving over the years; but we have not yet achieved equality. According to a report from World Economic Forum, it will take more than 100 years to achieve gender parity in the world, including the workplace. This begs the question, who is to blame for workplace gender inequality? Do we blame the HR department, government or the society?

Is HR to blame for workplace gender inequality?

HR is responsible for employee recruitment and retention. They have solid information about every employee in the workplace from job description to payroll and every other professional information. Once they notice a hitch such as unequal pay due to gender, it is their duty to point it out. Once there is a vacant position they know which gender they require in order to achieve or maintain balance in the workplace.

HR is in a naturally powerful position to effect gender diversity in the workplace. Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations LLC and an equal pay consultant agrees that HR can see the big picture and should actively work towards closing gender gap which is vital for every organisation.

The government of Kenya is in full support of attainment of gender equality. It has passed the two thirds gender rule in order to promote gender representation across a nationwide spectrum. The government has also supported and funded gender equality campaigns. In 2016, Kenya took the lead in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment by launching GoK – UN Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (JP GEWE). This was an important milestone for gender equality forming part of the 2030 agenda. President Kenyatta said that he was convinced that the world stands to gain if we continue to accept women’s progress is progress for everyone. “The government of Kenya is investing in its women and looking at it as a matter of rights as much as it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Can a society fuel workplace gender inequality?

Social norms and cultural biases are major problems when it comes to the fight of gender inequality. We live in a society where it is okay for a woman to be jobless not a man. It is the same society that will not promote a woman in the workplace if she is married because we assume the husband is making a better income. The society makes it look like it is wrong for a female to be in a position of power or even earn more than men.

This is one of the reasons why we have a small number of women in leadership. According to a research conducted by Women on Boards Network (WOBN) this year, it found out that the under-representation of women in board position was because most women were considered not board-ready. Most are the times when women leave work to attend to parental emergencies as opposed to their male counterparts. Traditional gender roles have not been completely wiped out and they subtly limit women’s careers.

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 According to a study conducted by Catalyst, One in five expectant females reported experiencing discrimination such as being denied promotions, harassment from management and change of job roles without discussion. This is due to lack of female-friendly workplaces. Increasingly women look for workplace cultures that best suit them such as workplace day-care, nursing rooms, flexible working hours, paid parental leave and so on.

For women to maintain excellent performances at work they need professional support from the organisation such as therapy in cases of mental issues and legal action for harassment cases. Four per cent of women report cases of sexual harassment at work as compared to men who stand at 1 per cent. It is because of such challenges why we have less females in the work force than men.

Related: Enhancing Women’s Economic Empowerment

Are women better professionals as compared to men?

The 2015 Quantopian study published in Fortune Magazine showed that women-led companies performed three times better than the S&P 500. It said that, “women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 drive had three times the returns as S&P 500 enterprises run predominantly by men,” with 80 women CEOs surveyed over a 12 year period (2002 – 2014) producing equity returns 226 percent better than the S&P 500.

Women tended to have higher returns averagely, fewer cases of fraud, excellent decision-making, generally lower turnover and higher average productivity. This means only one thing, that women in leadership should be stepping stones that aid other women to have a seat at the table. Former US president Barrack Obama spoke at a leadership event held in Singapore and said that females are not perfect but are indisputably better than males agreeing with a research conducted by Harvard Business Review, that women possess more leadership skills as compared to men.

In conclusion, there are many factors that are stopping women form attaining gender equality in the workplace. Everyone has a duty to ensure that we achieve equality especially those in a position of power. In this case, HR as the mother of the workplace, needs to ensure that gender equality is achieved by providing equal opportunities for female professionals as they do men, and create a female friendly work environments in order to attract and retain key female talent.

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Stephanie Grace writes on better Human Resource practices and employee growth and development. Email: stefannygrace95@gmail.com

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