Gender inequality refers to the unequal treatment or perception of individuals based on their gender, and statistical differences in the possessions, statuses, and opportunities between men and women.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all subject to unconscious biases… and sometimes we’re aware but just don’t see the problem. Biases, whether conscious or unconscious, are shaped by our own experiences in life, and naturally this not only changes our view of the world, but it also affects our decision making – often without us even knowing.
There have been countless numbers of studies on gender inequality in the workplace, and the most commonly-cited statistic is that women are earning on average 21% less than their male counterparts, or .79 cents on the dollar. And while some say this doesn’t factor in that women don’t hold the same jobs as men, even in studies of equal jobs women weren’t making equal pay.
Researchers have found that the greatest disparity occurs at senior levels of leadership. Some biased views are that women have better team-based skills, while men are viewed as more independent, or that senior-level women are less interested in advancing than senior-level men.
Nonprofits are an especially important place to examine gender inequality in the workplace, because women tend to make up a greater part of the nonprofit workforce — actually 75% just as of 5 years ago. And while women used to dominate the leadership composition of smaller nonprofit organizations, now men are taking on more CEO roles at those size organizations while women still haven’t significantly moved the leadership needle within larger nonprofit organizations, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy article published last year. The article also revealed that women CEOs in these larger organizations still didn’t make as much: “The gap is most pronounced for women chief executives at groups with budgets of $2.5 million to $5 million, who take home 23 percent less than male peers.”
Eliminating gender discrimination and recognizing implicit bias should be a top priority for any organization — and not just to avoid litigation and or a damaged company brand — but as a means to maximizing potential talent.
Here are some ways nonprofits can ensure all employees are treated equally:
- Conduct Equal Pay Audits – Include dynamics such as experience, job title and initiative. This will help to determine what is working vs. what is not and where you can improve.
- Survey Your Employees – Ask about their personal experiences with workplace bias and implement an action plan based on your findings.
- Foster Awareness – Initiate the discussion. Most people assume they’re not at risk of discriminating against employees when in fact we’re all subject to unconscious stereotyping. Self-awareness is key to taking action.
- Use the Right Language in Reviews – Ensure that managers are giving female employees feedback based on facts rather than judgments. Avoid using adjectives like “bossy” or “emotional.” Emphasize the use of words that ensure feedback is more objective. If management learns how to communicate feedback effectively, you can help your employees grow professionally, diffuse conflicts and improve your team’s productivity.
- Educate – Help managers understand and confront implicit biases that ultimately can impede organizational goals, and implement training for employees to educate them on how to identify and counteract gender bias.
- Create a Level Playing Field – Do women have access to the same opportunities as men within your nonprofit? Make sure women are provided with mentors that help give them the ability to grow.
There is certainly still room for improvement in gender equality but nonprofit organizations need to start taking responsibility for their part. There’s a lot to be said on this topic but taking small steps to counteract the current data will pave the way to a more equal future. Organizations must not only commit to gender diversity; they must also be authentic and accountable in doing so.