When we talk about sex equality, do we really know what it means or what it implies? Arguably, excellence doesn’t distinguish between genders. Instead, it recognizes talent and hard work. That’s why every company should be open to a balanced work environment, supporting and actively promoting sex equality.
Where does the problem start from? In female-dominated work, the prerequisites are worse, the risk of ill-health is greater and the risk of workers resigning as a result of ill-health or job dissatisfaction is higher. Moreover, there is also a known risk of being a victim of abuse when a woman occupies a higher role. That’s why we need to talk about sexual harassment in the workplace; specifically, just how common is it?
Jess Phillips, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on sex equality, sums up the essence of sex equality in this sentence:
‘We have got to fundamentally change our policies, which in 2019 are like something out of the 1950s. It is still not acceptable that women are expected to be the main parent, it is still not acceptable that women are valued so much less in the workplace, it is still not acceptable that we fail to recognize the disadvantages of being a poor woman, of being a black woman, of being a disabled woman, and what that means in the workplace’.
In 2006, the American civil rights activist Tarana Burke began using the phrase ‘me too’ with other girls and young women who have survived sexual assault. Me too became a very commonly used hashtag that inspired other women to break the wall of silence about the harassment they have experienced.
In order to guarantee a safer work environment, in February 2018, eight clear and simple principles to tackle bullying and harassment in film industries have been published by the British Film Institute (BFI) in partnership with Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund (CTBF). These guidelines cover a shared responsibility to respect others, adopt a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and ensure that rigorous processes are in place for reporting.
From a survey conducted by USA Today in conjunction with the Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, it was found that 94 per cent of women employed in the American film industry have experienced sexual harassment or assault.
What kind of sexual harassment, you might ask? Sexual harassment includes but is not limited to: unwanted/ unwelcome verbal/ physical force, lewd jokes, gender-based slurs, or sexual contact from either sex. The victim of sexual harassment doesn’t have to be the person directly harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
In the wake of Me Too, allegations of sexual assault in the sport industry have also come to light and the worst thing is that the various organizations involved have responded that the reason no measures were taken to address gender-based violence was because it was ‘not an issue’ for them. However, we know that there is often a fear of reporting, partly due to the power of the relationship that exists between an athlete and their coach.
Signatories of the Brighton Plus Helsinki Declaration suggest that attention needs to be urgently focused on the fact that ‘women are more vulnerable than males to gender-based violence (GBV) in sport’. Therefore, the official response that this is ‘not an issue’, suggests a worrying lack of respect towards girls and women — often a consequence of gender stereotypes and entrenched gender roles.
So what’s the latest legislation on sex equality?
The Equal-Act, came into force on October 1st, 2010. The Act simplifies, strengthens and harmonises the current legislation to provide Britain with a new discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
The problem is that many companies aren’t offering the right development opportunities; rather, women are often victims of harassment for a long time before finding the strength to report.
As awareness rises the gender gap narrows that little bit more.
And what about employers? The main steps an HR manager can take to ensure sex equality and a safe work environment include:
- Review job advertisement, ensuring it encourages both men and women to apply for the position without favouring one category over another
- Run recruitment campaign to attract women applicants to areas that have been generally destined for men
- Ensure transparent selection procedures that focus on individual qualities and aptitudes
- Constantly raise awareness about gender equality issues
- Offer the same rewards for the same job
- Invest in a family maternity service
So, if you’re a manager or you’re working in a company as part of the HR team and if you really want to promote gender equality — you should be following these guidelines.
Businesses can only benefit by successfully attracting both men and women to their workforce. It’s now an established fact that organizations which are the most gender diverse outperform those which are the least.
Women makes great business sense: women are increasingly more highly educated than men, as shown in the Global Gender Gap Report. Diversity then, brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues a company faces and stimulates greater effort; all of which, leads to improved decision-making.