The Global Compact Network Canada (GCNC) attended the 2019 Symposium of Women and the Workplace on May 9 – 10. The GCNC facilitated “Driving SDG #5 Gender Equality at the workplace”, an interactive workshop where Ayman Chowdhury, GCNC Head of Secretariat, shared resources that exhibit the purpose and significance of achieving SDG #5 in businesses. Afterward, participants shared their experiences, best practices and challenges regarding gender equality in their workplaces.
Here are five key takeaways from the Symposium that are applicable to every type of businesses within the Canadian private sector:
1. Bring back the moral case
There is clear financial evidence that proves gender equality in the workplace makes economic sense. Closing the gender gap will provide $150 billion to the Canadian economy by 2026, a significant statistic that McKinsey & Company elaborates on in The Power of Parity report. However, it is essential that the social benefits of gender equality, such as greater levels of female empowerment, productivity, and creativity are also communicated. This addition will help to develop a stronger case for gender equality that managers can recognize and support.
2. There is no real diversity without inclusion
Achieving a diverse environment is only possible when all minority groups, including women, are better represented and valued in the workplace. As Rotman School of Management’s Sarah Kaplan explained in her keynote address, gender bias has become ingrained into the system and has prevented women from achieving the positions they deserve. This illustrates the urgency of taking action by ensuring that hiring and promotion practices are unbiased, male senior leaders are advocates in diversity and inclusion, and there is a welcoming and safe workplace culture for everyone to prosper and grow.
3. Achieving the ideal work-life balance requires a new approach
Every employee has their own impression of what the ideal work-life balance looks like. Vanier’s Institute of the Family’s Nora Spinks outlined three options of work-life balance: blending work and life, separating work and life, and integrating work and life. This complexity raises the importance of offering a diverse set of flexible work options for employees to choose from, as it can increase individual autonomy, boost employee productivity and engagement, and enhance wellbeing.
4. Male participation must increase in the journey towards a gender-balanced business
Many discussions at the Symposium concluded that men should be active participants in workshops and training programs about gender equality. Offering specific workshops and training programs designed for men will bring greater awareness about gender inequality so that men can be more conscious of the bias and stereotypes that exist in the workplace and prevent them from happening again.
5. Use gender data to create tangible action and positive change
After a business collects data about gender equality in the workplace, it is helpful to share these findings internally and externally. Distributing the findings within all levels of an organization will allow employees to learn more about their workplace and provide input about how they envision gender equality. GCNC’s Reporting Peer Review Program allows companies to exchange and receive feedback on their sustainability reports, share best practices and improve reporting performance. This program could help businesses share their gender equality actions and benchmark best practices.