Despite gender activism taking centre stage at the workplace, women still trail their male counterparts at all levels in the workplace. This is according to ‘Women in the Workplace 2017’, a study conducted by renowned consulting firm Mckinsey together with LeanIn.Org, a women empowerment organisation.
The study targeted over 222 companies employing more than 12 million people and the biggest discovery was there are a number of blind spots that have led to stagnation in workplace gender equality cause. According to the report, many employees see the small numbers of women who have made it to leadership positions in the workplace as achievement enough and see no more need to push further.
Andrew Ssenyonjo, an author and recruitment consultant, says there has been progress in the women’s march to the c-suite. He says there are more women holding key and administrative positions in the organisations now than before. But Violet Kukundakwe, an entrepreneur and business trainer, says the numbers of women holding key positions are not yet adequate despite available opportunities for women to advance. She blames this partly on women being “risk averse”.
Lawyer and women activist Joan Agumenaitwe, however, disagrees and says a lot more needs to be done with the empowerment drive to achieve the desired goals, though the situation is much better than before. She says already women are adding a lot of value and creativity to the workplace and could even improve it further if fully empowered.
Where are the challenges?
Though he says things have improved a lot, Ssenyonjo emphasises that many women who merit managerial positions in organisations are not there. He suggests that more pressure should be put on organisations to be gender sensitive. “Such women deserve to be known for their excellence, but the gender push is manipulated to steal from them,” Ssenyonjo says.
He also notes that employers find challenges trying to strike a balance between getting the best out their female employees and allowing for unique needs such as maternity leave.
According to Kukundakwe and Agumenaitwe, debilitating imbalances still hound the women right from when they are children, limiting their growth. They are still being brought up to be timid and shy, according to cultural constructs, yet their male counterparts are encouraged to be bold and go-getters.
How can men help?
The report pointed out that many men are also not fully adept to the challenges of women in the workplace, yet for any solid progress to be made they have to play a part. Kukundakwe advises that men should make the environment friendly, especially by eliminating things such as sexual harassment and promotion based on favours.
Reassurance for the men
The report pointed out that only 15% of the men in the workplace are committed to gender diversity efforts and fairness, meaning the majority could not be bothered or fear the women’s potential. Kukundakwe calls this fear unnecessary. She thinks the advancement of women is no threat to any reasonable man because the majority of successful people are men. And the only way forward, she adds, is complementing each other and working together for a common development goal. Ssenyonjo advises that the equality message be better packaged to avoid men feeling cornered and vengeful. He notes that there is a silent war brooding because men fear an empowered woman ceases to recognise the man.
What else can women do?
Some of the other issues the report highlights is the fact that far less women reported having contact with senior executives in their organisations, which needs change. Ssenyonjo says women have a lot of potential. And if they want to position themselves well for promotion, they simply have to be the best, indulge more in organisational politics and promote their results to people who matter. Women should learn to be go-getters, take more risk, seek opportunities and deal away with all forms of personal limitation, Kukundakwe suggests.
Agumenaitwe says equal treatment of both sexes and following the employment laws to the letter is key. The report suggests more employee training, increased fairness in assessment, better accountability regarding gender issues, flexibility at the workplace and improved diversity.