HR has the ability to propel feminism or to squash the movement. Recognizing the impact of Human Resources on gender equality, some changes have been made in the interest of progress. Job candidates in some states can no longer be asked about salary history, because that practice perpetuates unequal compensation. Many HR departments are upping their game in offering attractive paid parental leave policies, and more than half of employers now offer flexible work options to help employees of all genders find balance between work and family. The Society for Human Resource Management acknowledges that while progress is being made, we still have a lot of work to do, as at the current rate of progress it will take another century before we see equal gender representation across the corporate pipeline. As of a 2016 study, only 20 percent of executives were women, and only 1 percent of Fortune 1000 board members were women (Onley, 2016). One percent!?
Human Resource professionals are in the best position to enact change in the name of gender equality in the workplace. We oversee talent acquisition and recruitment, diversity initiatives, and compensation efforts, and on top of all that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 80 percent of HR Managers are female. We are the key agents of change, particularly in working towards equal representation in leadership and compensation. In order to make an impact, it is our duty as HR professionals to be present and active in every step of the employee life cycle, empowering all hard-working individuals in our organization to self-advocate and practicing strategic human resource management that will help the leaders of our organizations see and make the changes necessary to achieve equality. Analytics software and HR Information Systems (HRIS) now exist to help eliminate bias in evaluating employee and candidate skillsets and core abilities objectively (Onley, 2016).
In my work, I am able to use our HRIS to pull reports that show us diversity data, showing employee gender, age, etc. alongside their position, so that I am able to analyze our diversity initiative through raw data that takes unconscious bias out of the equation and simplifies the process in addressing issues in diversity and underrepresentation of any gender or class. The fact that the HR industry is recognizing the value in these tools and creating better systems for objective diversity tracking shows that we are on the right track, and makes it easier to have something to show leaders when we may need to say, “Hey, look at this data. We are not seeing equal representation of women in leadership roles. Here’s what I think we can do about that.” Having quantitative data to demonstrate my observations is so valuable in communicating my ideas and objectives in the workplace. These HR tools can help me be heard when my voice alone is not enough.
Gender equality is a very broad issue which will be pivotal in making progress on many levels in society, but looking at it specifically in terms of the workplace, the business case for feminism is quite impactful. Studies already show that more women in leadership positions benefits companies, producing “higher average returns, fewer incidences of fraud, better decision-making, lower turnover and higher productivity” (Onley, 2016).
Female-friendly companies also have an advantage in talent acquisition and retention, as women are able to find organizational cultures in which they may thrive, feeling valued and able to pursue greater opportunities in leadership. Furthermore, the McKinsey Global Institute has noted the the United States could add up to 4.3 trillion dollars to its annual gross domestic product by the year 2025 if our workforce is able to achieve full gender equality (Onley, 2016). As it is, we are basically not allowing half of our humans to use their skillsets, abilities, passions, and talents to their full potential. What a waste! Let’s appreciate and value one another, seeking equal opportunity and giving every living creature the choice to be who and what they want.
Onley, D. (2016, October 24). HR key in helping employers achieve gender equality. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1116/pages/hr-key-in-helping-organizations-achieve-gender-equality.aspx