Embracing Equity in the Workplace

Posting date: 01 Mar 2023

Today we are championing and celebrating all women across the world, and the theme for International Women’s Day in 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.

When I heard that the theme this year is all about embracing equity, it got me thinking about what this means for women at work. We often talk about equality, but equity on the other hand is not so often discussed.

Equity vs Equality

Equity and equality are two terms which are often used interchangeably; however, they have two very different meanings which are important to understand and acknowledge. Equality is the access to and distribution of a set of resources evenly across individuals. On the other hand, equity recognises individual circumstances to even the playing field so that everyone can thrive and succeed. Achieving equity in the workplace is never a quick fix.

So, which is more important in levelling out the playing field between genders? Well, surprisingly neither equality nor equity is more important, they are simply two essential players through which we can achieve fairness, inclusion and justice. Without considering both equity and equality in equal measures, no organisation can fully claim to be inclusive.

Shockingly most traditional workplace models do not embrace equity.

Let’s start by analysing one of the most common working practices in the world. The 9 to 5 job.

As a female writing this myself, the 9 to 5 way of working generally works for me. However, there have been days where I simply haven’t felt as productive and have needed an extra hour of sleep to bring my A-game to work, or have been ready and raring to give it my all at 7 pm. I’ve often questioned why my productivity and energy levels haven’t always coincided with the 9 to 5 routine.

I was then very interested to learn that the traditional 9 to 5 model was first created in the 1800s by Henry Ford whose labour force at the time was tasked with building cars, and unsurprisingly enough the majority of these workers were men.

Throughout the last century, most of the workforce in western countries has been dominated by men, so it isn’t much of a surprise that their way of working has been shaped around their needs and natural energy ebbs and flows. Famously, even Dolly Parton sang about the 9 to 5 model in her hit song ‘9 to 5’ and perhaps Dolly’s lyrics suggest that even she, was not satisfied working in this way.

‘Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin. Barely gettin' by, it's all takin' and no givin'

Although most of us working in corporate roles accept the 9 to 5 model and have become very much accustomed to it, it is a great example of inequity for women in the workplace, let me tell you why.

The male hormonal cycle works over 24 hours:

Morning: Testosterone and cortisol levels are at their highest when men wake up, which leads to a spark in energy, focus & readiness as well as efficiency and productivity in work.

Afternoon: The drop in testosterone in the afternoon, puts men in the mood to socialise, connect, network & pitch ideas to clients.

Evening: Testosterone levels diminish and men desire relaxation.

With the above in mind, you can see why the 9 to 5 works for most men, as it is congruent to the male hormonal cycle, through seizing the best opportunities or as we now can call them ‘hormonal peaks’ and optimising this cycle for high performance.

On the other hand, the female hormonal cycle lasts (on average) 28 days:

Menstrual: During this phase, also known as the ‘period’, women are more prone to rest, reflect and decision-make.

Follicular: In this phase, we are more prone to plan, have new ideas and cultivate new beginnings.

Ovulatory: Testosterone spikes, which makes us more prone to socialise and feel energised.

Luteal: During this phase, we are focused, productive and organised.

So, we can see that the 9 to 5 way of working has been engineered with men in mind and can stifle women from reaching their potential, simply by being inflexible and encouraging a divergence in equity. This is a great example of why it’s so important to challenge the ‘norm’, specifically when it comes to workplace practices.

Thankfully, many companies now recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to working hours in particular. What’s more, at Stanton House we have an internal ‘Women in Stanton House’ forum, where not only do we empower our women to maximise their full potential at Stanton House, but also challenge our current practices and traditions to ensure that they are inclusive to both men and women.

I’m extremely proud and grateful to be a woman working for Stanton House, where flexible working is embraced, in an empathetic environment where individual differences are recognised. But sadly, I know this is not the case for all organisations, and there is always more we can do to fully embrace equity in the workplace.

So, how can we take strides forwards and embrace equity in the workplace?

Embracing workplace equity requires a concerted effort from everyone in the organisation, from the leadership team to individual employees.

Here are seven practical steps that can be taken to promote workplace equity:

1. Educate yourself and your team: Educate yourself and your team on what workplace equity is and why it's important. Make sure everyone understands the concepts of bias, privilege, and discrimination, and how they can manifest in the workplace.

2. Review and revise policies: Review and revise workplace policies to ensure they are equitable. For example, ensure that promotion and hiring processes are fair and based on merit, not personal biases or other discriminatory factors.

3. Provide diversity and inclusion training: Provide diversity and inclusion training to all employees to help them understand and respect differences in backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This can help create a more inclusive workplace culture.

4. Offer flexibility: Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, part-time work, and flexible hours, to accommodate the needs of all employees, including those with caregiving responsibilities or disabilities.

5. Ensure equal pay: Ensure that employees are paid equitably for the work they do, regardless of their gender, race, or other personal characteristics.

6. Promote accountability: Hold leaders and employees accountable for promoting workplace equity. Make sure everyone understands the importance of promoting equity and hold them responsible for upholding these principles.

7. Encourage open communication: Encourage open communication in the workplace, where employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences and feedback. This can help create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture.

There will never be a short-term quick fix that can be applied to becoming a more equitable workplace, but we as individuals have the opportunity to bring about change and take action towards gender equality! The key to creating a culture where both male and female employees can truly thrive is to see each employee as an individual and embrace differences. It all starts with us, so I challenge you to start thinking about what changes you can make to empower women within the workplace and beyond.

If you’re interested in creating your own internal Women in Business Forum, but don’t know where to get started, get in touch with us today. 

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