NextShift – Taking Stock of the Gender/Harassment Double Jeopardy

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Firstly, it should not take sexual assault + harassment allegations so close to home in Alberta in order to have to write this blog.  The theme for our next blog was going to be on diversity and homogeneity in the workplace, but we need to say more particularly as gender inequality is the fertile ground for the harassment of women in particular.  This issue is a frontline problem – the leadership in any enterprise must provide clear unambiguous messaging on how to improve gender inequality as a path to respect and appreciation for the women that make up our workforce by developing a culture of zero tolerance for harassment in any form.   This requires diligence to recognize and take on corporate blind spots to shift the corporate culture away from one where the leaders pay lip service and tacit apologies once the damage is already done.  By staying on a course of gender equality, the deep dive into the cesspool of sexual harassment, workplace bullying, and gender inequality can be avoided.

Secondly, companies need to do something positive, unyielding, and uncompromising to be divergent in their corporate thinking.  They need to promote fair practices by creating a social climate where the experience of balancing being a parent and developing a career are more holistic and beneficial to the greater good of society vs. what is in the corporate interest and a real bulwark to harassment.  Initiatives like honest and heartfelt sponsorship of equality around family-leave programs, no worry stay-at-home opportunities, fair promotion, pay-equity and transparency will move an enterprise towards the bold and courageous leadership that makes the enterprise a better place overall.

Thirdly, let’s change the metric that women are being promoted at a lower rate than men, particularly entry-level positions and high-level management/partnership positions where women are significantly less likely to be promoted than their male peers. Gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the potential quality of the work and products in a company. As we move towards a balanced homogeneity in the workplace and the extinction of harassment in any form, productivity and quality will naturally increase.

Finally, why is gender discrimination so persistent despite what some well-meaning business leaders and the media are doing and saying?  What should we all be do differently? Solid research would suggest that we fall short in translating top-level commitment and cultural shifts into a truly inclusive work environment. This will take a lot of effort and will be hard work despite senior leadership saying the right things, the greatest asset – employees don’t feel there is or can be engaged for making progress toward gender equality.  Good words must be backstopped with action and women in particular don’t feel confident calling out gender bias when they see it, and they don’t think enterprise leadership have got the message. Start now to look more carefully at the everyday experiences in your organization – for better or worse. Such an inward look will be likely very sobering but undeniably be an invaluable step toward breaking gender gridlock on a path to the elimination of harassment and inequality in any form.

Until next time,

Allan Partridge