A post by Facebook’s CEO Marc Zuckerberg about paternity leave and to care for his newborn daughter certainly contributes to changing stereotypical thinking, creates a culture of inclusion and inspires others to follow suit. After all, the 1.7 million likes that Mark got for his picture changing his daughter’s diaper should have some impact!
Unfortunately, not all organizations have Marc Zuckerberg as the CEO and the reality in most organizations may be quite different. Many countries do not have the concept of paternity leave at all. Some give one or two days at most. Aren’t men being discriminated here, being denied the pleasures of fatherhood?
Gender Equality is widely discussed today. There are laws in place to ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of gender at the workplace in the US, European Union, Australia and many other countries. Yet, we are a long way from achieving it at the workplace. According to one estimate by the World Economic Forum, it may take another 118 years to achieve equality for women at the workplace. Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman and CEO, Ernst & Young, who shared this piece of information in a blog titled, “Let’s not wait a century…” talks about three actionable steps that a company can take to create a level playing field. They are:
- Cultivate sponsors who willfully identify and promote high achieving women in the organization.
- Create a culture of inclusion where both men and women are given similar benefits and options.
- Ensure awareness, acceptance and promotion of gender equality at all levels in the organization.
Education and training are key elements to achieve the steps listed above. Online training is powerful in such instances because, what may be sensitive and tricky can be easily shared through stories, case studies or anecdotes in an online format.
Here are some suggestions for online training modules to promote gender parity within your organization. Not all may be relevant to your specific context, but you could certainly find some that could be useful in the context of your organization.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
You may have policies in place against sexual harassment. However, the policy is effective only if employees know what they are NOT supposed to do and what constitutes sexual harassment. If someone faces harassment but does not know what to do, what options are available to her, or how she can safeguard her rights while not compromising on her job or position, there is no use having the policy.
Building awareness about the rights and responsibilities of individuals to ensure that no individual is harassed sexually at workplace is the first step. The second step includes formulating clear guidelines as to what one can do in case of harassment and educating employees on the same. This can be done through systematic online modules.
Training on Anti-Discrimination Laws
Managers and in fact all employees need to know the anti-discrimination laws that are in force in the country they are operating in. For example, in Australia, it is now essential for non-public sector organizations with more than 100 employees to submit a report on various aspects of gender equality at the workplace each year to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Australia.
There are Equal Pay Acts of UK and USA, and many such acts and laws passed by individual states. It is important that employees, especially managers and senior stakeholders are aware of these and implement them in their organization. As these stakeholders are the sponsors of gender equality, they need to first be educated about the significance of the law, its rationale and the implications of violating it.
Again, online format becomes more feasible and easily implementable as courses can be taken at the convenience of these senior personnel who are hard pressed for time and therefore usually tend to put such investments in the back burner. Online format enables them to squeeze time to fulfill such an obligation.
Unconscious Bias Training
Gender bias creeps in quite unconsciously during decision making in organizations. Change cannot happen if we cannot see what to change. The way advertisements are drafted, the way memos and circulars are prepared could actually send subtle messages discriminating a particular gender. We are used to stereotypes. When visualizing a nurse, we only visualize a female and when we visualize a soldier, the image that comes first into the mind is of a man while in reality there may be many male nurses and female soldiers out there. No one is at fault. It is simply the way we have conditioned our minds – thanks to countless movies, television shows or the images we have seen from our childhood. So, quite naturally such biases tend to creep into our workplace and can influence our decisions. We need to identify such potential biases at the workplace and sensitize employees to ensure they overcome them while taking decisions during hiring, pay rises or promotions. Many organizations such as carsales.com, Facebook, Google, CIA and Coca-Cola conduct unconscious bias trainings to increase awareness among employees of their own prejudices so that their decisions are not marred by them (Source: Fortune and Women’s Agenda).
These are just a few examples of how online training can help promote gender equality at the workplace. There may be other aspects or issues that are unique to your organization and online medium will make it easy to create a curriculum or training program that will address the unique needs of your organization.
It also makes it easy to deploy and monitor the administration of training to see how many have actually taken the training, how they have fared in the assessments. It also allows you to easily update or reformat the content in case one particular format is not successful. Using scenarios, case studies and stories, gender equality can be subtly introduced in a phased manner in the organization. The only essential factor is the will of the management to invest time, money and energy into the initiative. Research has proved that organizations with more gender equality perform better as compared to the others, so it is really in the interest of the management to initiate action.