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What can companies do to boost gender equity in the workplace?

A new report finds that despite notable progress, inequities continue to persist, most notably for transgender employees in the workplace.
Posted at 8:54 PM, Jul 11, 2023

A new global analysis of women in the workplace finds that despite progress women are still fighting obstacles to true gender equity, and the problem is even worse for transgender women and women of color.

The Global Analysis of Gender at Work report from the non-profit think tank Coqual focused on working women in eight countries, including the United States.

Among the key takeaways: Two-thirds of men in the U.S. workforce say they've been promoted or considered for promotion over the past four years, while only about a half of women can say the same. Just 37% of women say they were very satisfied with their work-life balance, compared to 54% of men.

"Issues of gender identity are becoming huge. In the next 5 to 10 years, there is going to be a wave hitting the corporate world. There is going to be a revolution and I don't think we are prepared," Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management and deputy dean at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said in the report.

"There's plenty of work still to be done to advance gender equity," Coqual CEO Lanaya Irvin told Scripps News. "Black women are four times as likely to feel passed over for promotion. Asian women have the lowest belonging scores that we saw in several of our reports."

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In the study, Black women were most likely to report their race negatively affecting their career with 42% saying they've often thought about leaving their jobs compared to 28% of Asian women, 30% of Latina women and 34% of White women.

Coqual found that of the 8.2% of women in C-Suite positions, most are White women. One Black woman shared with researchers: "My competency has been questioned quite a bit throughout my career. As the only person of color on my team with the most experience, I'm still greeted with shock and looks of surprise in meetings where I kick things off as the lead."

Gender roles and dynamics outside of work also affected women's success in the U.S. workplace. In a survey, Coqual asked men and women how much of the housework they think they  complete each week. On average, women said they take on 72% of the housework while men said they take on 64% of the work.

One woman told researchers that her managing director didn't include her on work travel opportunities because she thought it would be "hard" for the employee to leave her children behind. 

"I was taken aback because if I'm not traveling, it's not necessarily because of my kids. Maybe it's because of the area I work in and the convenience. The fact that she made that assumption, and made a decision on my behalf without my input, really turned me off."

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The report also found most transgender and gender expansive professionals in the U.S. (60%) experience negative stereotypes and microaggressions at work. 

A total of 54% reported coworkers misgendering them, while 47% said colleagues have told them their gender nonconformity is just a phase, and another 41% were told their gender identity makes their coworkers uncomfortable.

"Can you imagine how that might erode a person's sense of belonging, might impact their ability to be productive at work," said Irvin.

There's still debate among researchers about diversity's impact on productivity based on country or industry, but one report from Harvard Business School concluded countries and industries that believe gender diversity is important reap its benefits, ranging from better worker performance and innovation, to higher financial returns.

"More opportunities for all of us makes it so that we're able to better deliver for our clients, better deliver for our shareholders, better deliver products and services for the communities that we serve," said Irvin. 

The report recommends companies should do three things if they want to improve diversity, equity and inclusion: "Define" the biggest gender issues facing their individual workplaces, "refine" the effectiveness of existing policies and programs, and "re-imagine" what an inclusive workplace looks like so no worker is left behind.