Changing Our Culture of Workplace Gender Inequality

We live in an age where gender inequality at the workplace is still regarded as an issue of ‘diversity’ – a term commonly used when referring to minority groups. It says a lot about our society that half the people who make up its population are considered to be a modest subset.


But regardless of how we label the problem, it shouldn’t weaken the fact that the issue exists. Last month, the media reported that TSB failed to meet its gender-balance target and, in sad recognition of its overambition, has pushed the target back by five years. The leadership team will have their bonuses docked.


Why is balancing gender at the workplace so hard, and are punitive measures really the solution? I believe that inspiring, coaching and leading is a better way to change our culture.


The heart of a complex issue


Who are Carolyn, Emma, Olivia, Véronique, and the two Alisons? They’re the FTSE100’s female CEOs – just six of them. To put this into perspective, FTSE 100 CEOs are more likely to be called ‘Steve’ than they are to be a woman. Furthermore, the number of women holding chair roles has fallen from seven to five.


Gender balance is undoubtedly on the radar for many corporations now and I find the vast majority want to achieve equality; the current failure can’t be attributed solely to lack of effort. By and large, companies do understand the benefits that fairer representation brings to their organisation. So what’s the problem?


Many claim it’s a complex puzzle – and there are certainly many layers to the problem – but at the centre of it lies an obvious truth: institutional sexism. We’re talking invisible barriers, attitudes handed down through generations, discrimination against women – often unconscious. Although the issue has always existed, professionals are now having to deal with it on a much larger scale, whilst also in the public eye.

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