Although the introduction of work-life policies was meant to enhance gender equity in the workplace, it has in fact reinforced the ‘glass ceiling’
"It is often challenging for women to juggle the demands of top corporate positions with family responsibilities,” says Shainaz Firfiray, an assistant professor or organisation and human resources management at Warwick Business School.
“Thus, workplaces should consider transforming their cultures to one where women’s family commitments are more openly addressed.”
"Although the introduction of work-life policies was meant to enhance gender equity in the workplace, it has in fact reinforced the ‘glass ceiling’ by forcing women to make a trade-off between ‘career advancement’ and the desire for a family or flexible career paths.”
Professor Firfiray shares this view following the resignation of Kevin Roberts as CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. He left after being quoted in an interview with Business Insider that the debate on gender diversity in advertising is “over”.
"While it could be the case that Roberts’ remarks may have been misunderstood, the debate on gender equity in workplaces is far from over,” says Firfiray.
She contends work processes in contemporary organisations are structured in ways that prevent women from successfully combining a high commitment career with family lives.
“Frequently, leaders and mentors in male-dominated workplaces make the mistaken assumption that women are not ambitious enough and in some cases take credit for their work and exploit their female subordinates to promote their own careers,” Firfiray tells CIO New Zealand.
“Creating a workplace culture where managers do not denounce the use of work-life policies might pave the way for establishing gender equity in the workplace and help women in building more meaningful and rewarding work lives."
“Workplaces should adopt a zero-tolerance policy against all forms of gender harassment and regularly evaluate their mentoring initiatives for women so as to positively impact women’s feelings about gender equity in their workplaces.”
She says organisations can take the following steps in the next three months to create a “more gender inclusive workplace”:
- Set targets for hiring and promoting women to senior leadership positions
- Provide formal mentoring programs to prepare women for senior management positions
- Adopt flexible work arrangements without career penalties.
Long-term, organisations should take steps to improve female representation on management teams and boards.
She says workplaces could utilise utilise information technology to conduct surveys to assess the success of mentoring programs, to encourage discussion of the barriers that women face in the workplace and to enable more opportunities for women to network and build their self-confidence.
“This could be a crucial first step in promoting an inclusive, supportive and a diverse workplace.”
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