Initiatives promoting gender equality in the workplace are growing, study finds

Some people believe that this issue has already been solved, but when one looks at the broad context and data related to violence, the need for discussion is clear.
23 November 2022
Initiatives promoting gender equality in the workplace are growing, study finds

Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030 is the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5. Although this goal is still far from being attained, initiatives to help organizations promote equality between men and women in the workplace are growing, according to a study by Maria José Tonelli, a psychologist and professor at the Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), published in GV-Executive.

Some people believe that this issue has already been solved, but when one looks at the broad context and data related to violence, the need for discussion is clear. According to Brazilian Public Security Forum figures, 1,319 women were murdered and 56,098 were raped in Brazil in 2021. Every 10 minutes, a woman or girl is raped, and every seven hours, one is murdered. For this reason, it is still necessary to discuss this subject.

The achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5 ought to guide our individual and collective conduct. Organizations have been working to promote changes in areas such as employment, entrepreneurship, digital empowerment and participation in environmental sustainability issues, to name a few topics on the agenda.

In her study, Tonelli focuses on showing the difficulties experienced by women in joining the labor market and she presents initiatives, improvements and benefits that organizations can achieve by making modifications.

Present situation

The female workforce suffers from racial prejudice in social relations. In all, 50% of Brazilians are female and 50% are black and brown-skinned. Black women are disadvantaged the most when it comes to equality and inclusion, due to racism.

In addition, some other aspects should also be taken into account, such as social class and aging. “Inequality manifests itself differently, depending on social class. The glass ceiling prevents women from privileged groups from reaching the top of organizations, while women in middle and lower social groups have to juggle work with domestic chores and they also suffer from unstable earnings and labor market volatility. In turn, women in extreme poverty experience precarious jobs and limited educational conditions,” Tonelli says.

The aging workforce is another factor that has recently been incorporated into the debate on gender issues. The “feminization of aging” is the phenomenon whereby older women suffer more than older men in terms of career development.

Regarding the ascension to positions of power, Brazilian data on gender is alarming. Brazil ranks 142nd out of 192 countries in terms of women’s participation in politics, according to an institution that looked at the composition of parliaments around the world. In business leadership, the situation is no better. According to a study by the Brazilian Corporate Governance Institute and executive search firm Spencer Stuart, women only account for 14% of board members and 25% of directors in Brazil. Matters have not improved much in the last 10 years. Although more women have joined the labor market due to their educational equality with men, they have not risen up organizational hierarchies to the same extent as men.

Benefits of transformation

The inclusion of women in prominent positions in the labor market can generate multiple benefits for both women and employers. Here are some examples of these benefits:

- Talent retention

- Compliance

- Reduction in organizational risks

- Country’s stability and security

- Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT)

- Better corporate performance with women in leadership

Many companies have been promoting gender equality and seeking to develop a culture in this area. Of particular note is the Women’s Empowerment Principles Awards, which are run in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact Brazilian Network, an initiative to mobilize companies to help pursue the Sustainable Development Goals. This network contains many companies that support this cause and are making a difference in this area.

Here are some of the targets that are part of Sustainable Development Goal 5:

- End all forms of discrimination against all females everywhere;

- Eliminate all forms of violence against all females in the public and private spheres including trafficking, sexual and other types of exploitation;

- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation;

- Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies;

- Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life;

- Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights;

- Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources;

- Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women;

- Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

According to Tonelli, many companies have taken measures to promote diversity in different aspects, such as race and gender. However, she argues that unconscious biases still shape society. “Is the inclusion movement really possible in current social and organizational structures? Will the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement, which is just beginning, lead to profound changes in the relationships between companies and their stakeholders in favor of a planetary community that suffers from social imbalances and climate impacts? We hope so,” she says.

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