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Improving gender equality in the workplace requires effort from all employees

In 2019, the U.S. achieved progress toward gender equality in the workplace, but a recent University of Phoenix survey measuring perceptions of equal pay among men and women in the workplace uncovered that women still feel like they lack opportunity.

According to the survey, 73 percent of employed adults believed men and women have equal pay opportunities within their workplace. However, nearly a third (32 percent) of women responded that they do not feel they are paid fairly. Regarding perceptions of opportunity, 82 percent of men said that they felt they have an equal opportunity to show their worth in the workplace, while 72 percent of women answered that they feel the same.

Doris Savron, vice provost of academic colleges at University of Phoenix, said that despite a continued focus by society on gender equality, there is still work to be done.

“It will take everyone working together to continue to create opportunities for all,” said Savron, who has spent 25 years in the industries of healthcare, information technology and academia. “First, looking at ourselves, and second being aware of what is happening around us can be the fastest drivers to change.”

Savron said that dynamics in the workplace can be improved now and in the future. She suggests tips to help all employees and leaders seek out and implement change in a purposeful way.

Be Vocal

Savron suggested that women should offer their ideas and solutions without waiting for others to speak first. This also includes letting superiors know of career goals and then asking, instead of waiting, for development opportunities related to improving skills and advancing education. And while it may feel self-aggrandizing, it’s important for all employees to highlight their achievements and successes.

Remain Relevant

Another tip Savron offered is to stay current on industry trends, seek out high-profile projects and share ideas with others. This can, of course, be seen as a potential risk since it puts the employee in the spotlight, but Savron encouraged women to take on those risks to potentially see the rewards.

Find or Become a Mentor

Another potential solution is establishing mentors or advocates who can provide feedback and support. This can help increase confidence that the survey indicated women feel is lacking relating to opportunities. Highlighting employee successes and accomplishments and acknowledging ideas, suggestions, and contributions can help build an employees’ confidence.

Savron suggests women focus on strengths and embrace opportunities to be vocal.

“Sometimes we just have to overcome the fear and take a risk or chance by sharing our ideas to increase our confidence,” she said. “Taking on a ‘growth’ mindset helps build confidence – meaning anything we focus and practice doing can help us get better.”

Men Can Play a Role, Too

Savron also has tips for men to help play a role in gender equality. She encouraged both men and women to assess the status of gender equality in their workplace and actively work to implement change. This includes speaking up when unfair practices are observed, being aware of communication, creating mentorship opportunities as well as a willingness to mentor in formal or informal ways, asking counterparts or subordinates about career interests, and supporting a female employee’s efforts to acquire skills through professional development.

“Male managers need to be sensitive to making sure they highlight successes of team members equally and advocate for women on their team ensuring they are considered for high profile projects, recognizing their ideas and asking for their input,” she said. “Pay attention to who you promote, why you promote, who you ask for feedback and why. Are you leveraging all the talent on your team equitably?”

Savron encouraged men to envision the equal opportunity workplaces they want for their daughters, wives and sisters, and then advocate for it to be a reality within their own workplace. This includes intentionally watching how women are treated in meetings or interoffice communication and interactions, as well as reflecting on one’s own biases. This step can be challenging.

These biases impact how we interact, she said. Recognizing your own perceptions is important to figure out how you yourself act and communicate with employees of another gender. If you are in a position of leadership, reflect on how your biases may impact the way you lead.

It will take all of us working together to continue to create opportunities for all. So first looking at ourselves and second being aware of what is happening around us can be the fastest drivers to change.

— Doris Savron
Vice provost, University of Phoenix