Erin Berthon

Erin Berthon, MA     Career Advisor, Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, at Chapman University

I was once told to always remove my wedding ring before going into an interview, so I wouldn’t be pre-judged for having a family and the job being affected. This stereotype is proof that women still have to think about these types of inequalities. 

Recently I was asked to speak on a panel, Women in the Professional World, an event for Kappa Alpha Pi and it brought back memories from my job searching days just after graduating college.

As a woman who has been through multiple jobs in different industries, looking back at the inequality, I wish that I had found a mentor. The availability of an experienced mentor to help guide you through the different channels you’ll face throughout your career is invaluable. Mentorship should be an opportunity that is open to everyone. Mentors should expect to be questioned on how to ask for pay rises within a company and advice on tackling any issues relating to inequality. 

Gender inequity in the workplace is an issue that concerns everyone, and awareness of this issue at the start of your career will help you navigate the workplace and also be part of the solution moving forward. 

Despite the strides that have been made in improving gender equality in the workplace, females still tend to get paid significantly less than their male counterparts, and women tend to be underrepresented in leadership roles. COVID-19 has also played a new role for working parents and caregivers as some companies haven’t adjusted their expected performance output to account for the new challenges caused by the pandemic. Employees now face the choice between falling short of pre-pandemic expectations that may now be unrealistic or pushing themselves at an unsustainable pace. This stress has been weighing on women, and it goes right back to inequality in the workplace. There are, however, a few things that employers can do to improve this.

One of the most important and transparent things companies and organizations should do is close the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap can only continue if a culture of secrecy is encouraged within a company. A new culture of transparency needs to be introduced, which challenges a company to investigate the pay gap between women and men and stops asking candidates to report their salary at their last job. During an interview, an employer should never ask what the prospective employee expects to get paid. The problem with this is that women usually tell the interviewer a lower salary than a man would, and the pay should be fair and transparent.

Making work/life balance is a priority for all employees. One of the most significant hurdles that currently prevent women from reaching the top of their careers is the lack of available childcare because, as women, this responsibility seems to land on our shoulders. To relieve working mothers, parental leave for fathers should also be promoted to allow mothers to invest more time in their careers and allow fathers to be more actively involved in childcare duties. Companies can and should play a vital role in supporting mothers by working together to agree on a fair and balanced workplace that will promote productivity while also allowing flexibility and remote work when and where possible. COVID-19 has been instrumental in changing the mindset in the average work environment as a whole. However, in terms of workplace equality and the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, millions of women are considering leaving the workforce due to stress caused by the unsupported balance. If these women feel forced to leave the workplace, we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership—and far fewer women on track to be future leaders. 

Notably, men should also be a part of this and need to be educated on equality as well.

Right now, companies need to take more decisive action. This starts with treating gender diversity as an equal opportunity by having training, processes, and support. Also, holding leaders accountable for results. It requires closing gender gaps in hiring and promotions, especially early in the pipeline, when women are most often overlooked. Also, it means taking bolder steps to create a respectful and inclusive culture so women—and all employees—feel safe and supported at work. Efforts to achieve equality benefit us all. When the most talented people can rise to the top, regardless of what they look like and where they’re from, we all end up winning.

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