A Leadership Plan to Increase Gender Consciousness and Awareness in an Organization
Assessing Existing Gender-based Barriers to Women’s Professional Advancement
Deeply ingrained gender-based perceptions and stereotypes within organizations are among the main causes of gender discrimination at workplace. In many instances, gender bias and discriminatory practices within organizations are caused not by blatant violations of women’s rights but by subtle attitudes as well as socially and psychologically constructed workplace dynamics that make women appear less capable, qualified or deserving raises and promotions. As Ely, Insead, and Kolb point out, subtle forms of gender bias in organizational culture stunt women’s leadership development and impede their leader identity development. For instance, when organizational culture supports unintentionally even a small bias in favor of males, workplace performance of men is likely to be appraised more positively than the identical performance of women. Therefore, since biased performance evaluations portray female employees as less capable, women are more likely not get important tasks and assignments as often as men do.
However, there are instances when women deprive themselves of opportunities for professional and leadership development. Farrington states that gender differences in communication and self-positioning can result in unwitting discrimination of women at workplace. The author explains that since women tend to opt out of positions and fields populated mostly by men, employers fail to notice qualified female candidates. Therefore, women should strive to break gendered stereotypes by communicating and positioning themselves in ways that develop and highlight their leadership and professional potential to prevent instances of unintentional discrimination.
Frequently, gendered bias is grounded on false stereotypes and assumptions that women are not capable of demonstrating leadership skills required to run a company. Walker and Aritz and Hoyt and Murphy agree that preconceived and intuitive notions of social identities and what it takes to be a leader contribute to perceiving women as unqualified to take leadership positions. Walker and Aritz believe that organizational culture can define accepted ways of performing leadership responsibilities, affecting who is and who is not considered fit for a leadership position, particularly on the basis of gender. However, Walker and Aritz as well as Hoyt and Murphy explain that gender is not a determinant of leadership capabilities. The authors believe that successful female leaders can demonstrate both qualities that are traditionally attributed to men and qualities that are traditionally considered women’s. Hence, women possess characteristics necessary to be capable and successful leaders.
As the analysis demonstrates, gender-based biases and stereotypes, an organizational culture that promotes gender discrimination, women’s psychological barriers, as well as a biased perception of what it takes to be an effective leader, are the main barriers to gender equity at workplace. Therefore, it seems that barriers in human capital development in relation to gender can be divided into two groups: socio-cultural and psychological. Reviewed sources on the topic of impediments to women’s career and leadership development point put that gender bias and negative gender stereotypes are the major barriers to female career advancement. However, psychological barriers such as unwillingness to take leadership and management positions and family obligations also serve as significant obstacles that women face on the way to building successful careers.
The analysis of gender consciousness and awareness and human resource practices at the current place of employment in the light of reviewed literature demonstrates that there are barriers to gender equity at a current organization of the author’s employment. Identified barriers to professional growth of female employees include subtle gender bias, self-positioning by women that makes it easy to overlook their qualifications and capabilities, and a biased gendered perception of what it takes to be an effective leader. The aforementioned factors are the main barriers to leadership and professional development of women at a current workplace.
Current and Proposed Retention Plans
Current Retention Plan
Although the current retention plan seems unbiased and has no clauses that can foster or facilitate gender discrimination directly, it may unintentionally contribute to what Ely call subtle gender bias in organizational culture that tends to favor male employees and stunt professional and leadership development of female employees. In particular, there is a biased interpretation of what equal employment opportunities comprise that puts women in a position of disadvantage. For example, on one hand, current retention policies and plans provide formal equal employment opportunities for women and emphasize acceptance of female employees at workplace and in management and leadership positions. On the other hand, the same retention plans neither adjust retention policies to the needs of working mothers nor place emphasis on a work-life balance of female employees. Finally, current retention plans do not call for reconsidering social norms of workplace culture to provide equal professional and leadership opportunities to working women.
Proposed Retention Plan
The proposed retention plan is going to include initiatives and policies that eliminate possibilities for subtle bias towards women employees and unfavorable performance evaluation of working women and remove impediments for career development of females by changing social norms of organizational culture to consider needs of working women. Therefore, the new retention plan is going to include the following measures:
- training for leadership to redefine organizational culture and move away from masculine view of leadership;
- teaching leadership programs and leadership principles in women-only groups to help women advance into more senior leadership roles;
- raising awareness among leadership, human resources management, and other employees of harm and non-acceptance of subtle gender discrimination;
- encouraging leadership of an organization to act as role models in overcoming gender stereotypes;
- establishing practical mechanisms that make organizational culture friendlier towards women and their professional development.
Outdated and Ineffective Current Policies and Opportunities and a Plan for Their Revision and Implementation
Some of the current organizational policies and opportunities seem only partially effective in promoting gender equality. Hence one should develop a working plan for the revision and implementation of new policies and opportunities. The following policies and practices can be considered ineffective and outdated:
- policies that promote formal workplace equality but do not address gendered flaws in organizational culture, contributing to gender inequity and biased workplace evaluation performance of female employees;
- policies that fail to adjust retention practices to the needs of working mothers;
- policies that fail to adjust retention practices to the need for a more harmonious work-life balance of working mothers;
- seemingly sound policies that account for disproportionately high representation of males in leadership and managerial positions and a disproportionately low number of females in managerial and leadership positions;
- policies that foster discriminatory environment in subtle and unintentional ways.
A plan for the revision of flawed current policies and implementations of new policies should consist of the following steps. First, an organization should create a working group with representatives from executive leadership to revise existing policies that limit opportunities of women employees. Second, a human resources department should develop and establish new performance evaluation measures that prevent practices whereby the performance of working women has been evaluated less favorable in comparison with performance of working men. Third, an organization should develop and implement an awareness program and training to facilitate the departure from former subtle discriminatory practices to unbiased workplace environment. Fourth, a working group should revise old policies and develop new ones that consider interests of working mothers and help them to achieve optimal life-work balance. Fifth, an organization should establish measurable indicators to track progress in terms of increasing the number of women in managerial and leadership positions. Finally, an implementation plan and a schedule of implementation should be developed and enacted.
Implementation of Proposed Initiatives
Measures and initiatives described in the previous sections as a part of a new retention plan for offering women employees equal workplace opportunities require significant changes in organizational culture as well as active involvement and commitment of leadership. Since leaders and executive managers play the key role in promoting ethical environment within an organization and providing ethical guidance for their personnel, the majority of employees look to their executive management and leadership for ethical guidance and signals about what is moral and acceptable conduct. Therefore, leadership and management wield a significant power within organizations to promote an inclusive environment that offers to women equal pay and career advancement opportunities. Hence, leaders must participate in motivating personnel to overcome gendered stereotypes within an organization and promote opportunities that challenge gender-based discrimination and help employees to overcome gender-specific restraints.
The process of implementing proposed initiatives should include the following steps:
- involving leadership in developing new non-discriminatory policies and establishing renewed non-discriminatory organizational culture;
- planning implementation of required initiatives ahead and budgeting in advance costs of implementing new initiatives;
- assigning managers responsible for implementing new policies;
- developing a clear step-by-step plan for implementing new policies and initiatives;
- developing measurable indicators of effectiveness of new policies and initiatives;
- assessing the effectiveness of new policies and initiatives in creating socially and psychologically constructed non-discriminatory environment.