The American Workplace has been going through some major changes as of late, many of which are long overdue. These changes must begin at the roots; as the person your employees look to for leadership and guidance, your behavior must create a safe and equal dynamic – lest a rotten workplace be the result of a poisonous tree.
The #metoo movement brought to the forefront what many women are all too familiar with in the workplace; a whopping 81 percent of women have been sexually harassed while at work. In a leadership role, you have these responsibilities: to treat all employees equally and with respect; to employ a code of conduct that is explained to all employees and regularly reviewed; to take all claims of sexual harassment seriously, investigate them thoroughly and without bias; and to fire those who have broken the code of conduct. As the leader, you set the tone and create the culture. It’s up to you to create a workplace that does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind.
Harassment is not the only issue that needs to be addressed while creating a positive work space. Women are, on average, paid about 39% less than men. The remedy is simple: pay the same wages for the same work. When you undercut an employee on pay, you’re not only showing your employees that you value men more than women – you’re actually undercutting your own credibility as an effective leader. It’s also a great way to create heavy turnover; employees always know when they are being underpaid. Be mindful when you review salary histories that women may have been previously held at a disadvantage. Don’t try to save a few bucks and alienate your workforce in the process.
In the same vein, women should be on the same track to promotion as men. A workplace with only men in positions of power is not representative, and it sends the message to both the men and the women in your workplace that women are not seen or valued the same way that men are.
A major characteristic of a great leader is that they listen. Listen to any and all ideas, whether they come from men or from women. Whether it’s a marketing pitch, a solution to a problem, or just a small concern about the workplace in general, all employees should have the same opportunity to be heard. Employ language that is consistent among all employees regardless of sex – call everyone by their name, not a nickname or term such as “young lady” or “young man.” These seemingly harmless words can carry condescending connotations and may make employees feel that they are not being heard as a respected part of the workforce.
At first glance, these may seem like tips for bettering a work environment for women, and they are; however, when you create an equal work environment, everyone wins. Productivity will rise, camaraderie will heighten, and respect for you as a leader will come naturally for everyone. Effective leadership is the key to an equal, healthy, successful workplace.