Women in the workplace and why equity matters

Studies have consistently shown that boosting diversity and gender equity in the workplace benefits organisations and their bottom lines, and researchers have confirmed that having more women in the workplace increases well-being for all employees. But are women proportionally represented in the workplace?


This is a contributed article by Patrice Williams is Human Resources Manager at Vuram.


Women make up half of the world’s population (3.9 billion). However, when it comes to workplaces, are women represented and involved in making core decisions, design, and execution? Female participation in the workforce has always been disproportionate. Although the progress towards gender equality has been rapid in recent years, it will take eons to undo the toxic inequalities and gender biases. It will take us 99.5 years to close the overall global gender gap, says World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.

The misconceptions and myths that have been perpetuated since the dawn of humanity on women’s roles and capabilities are multifaceted. The unfounded fear of women’s competency to lead businesses has been a significant challenge.

The truth is comprehensive studies prove that gender equality in the workplace and a diverse workforce can significantly enhance a company’s bottom line. For example, according to PwC, increasing women's employment rates across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries have improved their GDP by US$6 trillion a year. The studies also reported that “closing the gender pay gap across the OECD could boost GDP by US$2 trillion a year.”

An inclusive workplace is driven by a work culture that fosters equity, empathy, respect for its people, and an egalitarian work environment. A gender-balanced workplace ensures equal opportunities, pay parity, equitable participation, and equal benefits to all employees without being discriminated against by gender, race, sex, and ethnicity.

Even though organisations are aware and have taken steps to overcome gender barriers, we still have a long way to go. When the pandemic crisis brought the world to a standstill, disrupting every individual’s lives and livelihoods, it was nothing less for working women. According to McKinsey’s reports, women’s jobs were 1.8 times more vulnerable than their counterparts. Although women make up 39% of global employment, they met with 54% of overall job losses. This can force us to evaluate how the pandemic has disrupted the progress in closing the gender gap.

While there are numerous ways to combat gender inequality, allyship is significant in transforming the work culture by nurturing a progressive and inclusive environment favoring equity. The notion of allyship seeks to develop an inclusive culture. It encourages marginalised individuals to connect with others and helps privileged groups to support people regardless of race, gender, or beliefs, nurturing inclusivity and diversity. 

In an organisation, allies to a cause do not belong to the group but are willing to support minority groups, ensuring that their challenges are addressed, and their voices are heard. There is a clear sign that allyship is gaining popularity in this decade. Dictionary.com, a website with 70 million monthly users, has named allyship as the word of the year 2021.

Allies deliberately step forward with empathy, using their collective voice and status to create awareness, and offer support towards causes to shape a positive environment that values equity and brings in change. As allies, employees from other genders can support women and join forces to address their challenges by being active listeners, affirming the situations, and validating the experiences to drive change.

Allies provide space to create behavioural changes among majority groups, thus shaping a culture that embraces diversity and acceptance. This progressive culture is crucial to confront biases that are implicit in sexism. The inherent value of allyship is, by gaining the support of stakeholders across the organisation, it is easier to implement policies and facilitate a change with the least resistance that allows business-wide equity.

Despite the progress in creating opportunities for women and positioning them for career advancement, there is a significant gender gap in the corporate environment. Surveys show that even in organisations that cultivate equity, subtle expressions of bias run underway. In a study by Deloitte, gender-based discrimination is one of the top three types of bias people experience, others being age-based and race-based prejudices.

Allies have a vital role in enlisting support towards the cause, addressing challenges faced by women, educating and creating awareness among key stakeholders, and advocating a change that would resonate. In addition to bringing changes to the existing policies and practices, women from marginalised backgrounds can be motivated and encouraged to showcase their skills when supported by various interest groups.

Impacting the daily behavior of a workforce can be a challenging task, but allyship can make a difference in how people can embody inclusion in everyday interactions. This bold inclusion supports businesses and society at large. Besides, a concerted effort to recognise and energise underappreciated women can set the stage to foster collective learning and camaraderie. This favorable milieu can break down stereotypes and prejudice.

So, how can businesses create a workplace that can blur the line between the genders and maintain gender equality? The first step would be to see the value of women in business and recognise the women’s capability to make an impact across the business lines.

The next pivotal step should be educating the workforce on the importance of treating women with fairness, goodwill, and respect. The process should emphasise that creating an inclusive culture will empower and engage each other.

It can also help when organisations create groups of people with diverse thinking. When these people intersect in unique ways, they can recognise the importance of mentoring individuals from different perspectives.

Patrice Williams is Human Resources Manager at Vuram, a Hyperautomation services company specialising in low-code enterprise automation.