Creating a healthy work environment for women is all about being in a place where work product, performance and commitment matter most. It is not about being where gender discrimination resides.
There has been much research and articles about women experiencing discrimination and inequality at work. Surveys show that over 50% of women believe that their opportunities have been limited as a result of discrimination and inequality. Whether it is discrimination which is more overt, more active and personal, or inequality which is more covert, established and a part of an entrenched corporate mentality, these circumstances have kept women from promotions, salary increases and other influential opportunities.
With all of this knowledge, with federal and state regulations and corporate understanding about best management practices, why are women still facing corporate sexism? Maybe it is because behavior is hard to quantify and can be subjective. Maybe it is because corporations do not, overall, have extremely strict policies in place (and enforce them). And maybe it is because the cost of discrimination has not created an environment where work equality is seen as good economic sense. Regardless of the reasons, women have to be unwavering in their promise to themselves to ensure that they are treated as valuable corporate assets.
This means that women have to work towards creating a healthy workplace environment. We all want to work for a company where women are valued as productive and contributing, and are regarded with respect; where participation by women is welcomed and encouraged; where employees are seen and treated equally as people and rewards are given based on performance; and where recruitment of excellent talent is gender-blind.
Unfortunately, sometimes, even within those excellent companies, discrimination shows up. So how can you create an environment that is conducive to your success and productivity? Here are ten actions that can help.
- Be genuine and sincere. There is nothing to be gained by mean girl behavior, ever.
- Show people kindness, respect and appreciation. Expect the same in return.
- Set clear boundaries for your work conduct and what you are willing to accept from others and adhere to those. This does not mean being inflexible; it means knowing and respecting yourself and your value.
- Take pride in your work and embrace excellence. Always be prepared.
- Set an example for others in your group, department or company. Be a person of integrity and trust. Your reputation will always be the best thing you have.
- Be a team player. Show that you take yourself seriously. Show up on time, minimize absences, do your share.
- Find out if there are women-centric activities or events available at your company and participate. If none are available, consider starting a monthly networking meeting, an internal mentoring program or an external one at a nearby college or high school.
- Look for opportunities to collaborate with other groups or departments. Think about ways you can build upon the corporate image.
- Communicate with Human Resources to make sure that there are corporate policies in place that prohibit discrimination and harassment. Ask how they are enforced. If policies do not exist, offer to participate on a committee to create them.
- Be willing to file a complaint if you are or someone you work with is treated inappropriately or have experienced discrimination. Document every detail possible.
Eliminating discrimination and inequality in the workplace and society is something that all women, and men, should work towards. A healthy, welcoming and appreciative work environment makes for a positive and productive work experience for everyone. And satisfied, producing employees is always a good corporate behavior.
Carlynne McDonnell is the author of THE EVERY WOMAN’S GUIDE TO EQUALITY. She has a Master’s in Public Policy and has been working in the corporate, education and non-profit worlds for over 30 years. She is also founder of the nonprofit Change in Our Lifetime, which is dedicated to achieving equality for women.