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Article by Lotus Smits, Global Head of Diversity & People Experience at Glovo

Every year, the need for greater gender parity grows. That’s because progress is painfully slow. In the EU, it’s set to be achieved in 200 years, while in the US the pay gap hasn’t budged for two straight years.

The pandemic only served to make this worse. For women in the workplace, it spelled a colossal setback, with women being pushed out of more jobs at an alarming rate.

Now, if we are to not only regain this ground, but accelerate on and make more progress, we need a plan of action that is bold and ushers in far-reaching changes.

To me, this comes down to how we think about leadership in general. In his TedX talk, psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic said how despite women possessing more of the values more integral to great leadership; such as humility, integrity and competence, it’s often men’s charisma and confidence that wins out.

Similarly, McKinsey looked at the actions of managers during the pandemic, and women were found to provide more emotional support, help navigate work-life challenges, and check in on general well-being than their male counterparts.

Research even shows that beyond employees, when it comes to a company’s bottom line women leaders would add $1.6-2.3 trillion to the global gross domestic product. Yet despite this, only 2.8% of global venture capital funding went to women-led businesses in 2019–and even that was an all-time high.

Promoting strong leadership values over gender isn’t just a victory for equality; it’s a victory for the workplace.

To finally make some progress worth celebrating, I suggest four major changes to the workplace and below, explore how these can be key drivers in addressing gender balance and giving women not only a seat at the table, but rightfully a seat at the head of it.

1. Redefining how we talk and think about gender

The irony of trying to address the gender balance is that we often do so by the compass needle of gender stereotypes.

Women did three times as much childcare as men during the pandemic, which was part of the reason so many left their jobs, whilst in the US the pay gap widened the more time people took to care for their families.

But why, when we think of carers, do we think of women? We should have broad policies in place that accommodate all sexes. This way, the playing field is levelled and carers of any gender are supported.

Gabrielle Novacek, MD & Partner, Boston Consulting Group, says how we should stop thinking about demographics, and instead think about how our workplace can become more effective to a broader workforce.

That way, when we think of carers, or leaders, innovators and business owners, we’re not thinking of gender first–but individuals.

2. Changing what defines great leadership

It’s not just about changing how we define leadership, but all levels of seniority. And acknowledging that how we pick our leaders can have an enormous effect on the rest of our workforce.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic sees the way forwards as not lowering leadership standards for women, but elevating them for men. This way, the sync between incompetence and leadership is broken, regardless of gender.

This lens on leadership also levels the playing field for men and non-binary employees who do not display typically ‘masculine’ behaviours. Leadership based on competence seems like a low bar to set ourselves; yet it is one that is still sorely missing.

3. Making the workplace experience the same

Workplaces support maternity leave, so why shouldn’t they support other situations pertaining to female health? This means we are putting our people forward, and telling women, regardless of age, medical condition or circumstance, we will support them to work how they want to work.

One in four women suffer a miscarriage, yet organisations are only now waking up to introducing policies to support not just bereaved parents. With big organisations such as Channel 4, Monzo and others introducing their policies last year.

While if your workforce includes 10 women going through menopause, 8 of those will experience noticeable symptoms–with almost half finding them hard to deal with. Yet menopause policies offering flexible working or comfort breaks, are still a rarity.

4. Encourage allyship

Arguably the biggest misnomer about the fight for a better gender parity is that it’s a job for women, to be fought by women. Yet it stands to benefit us all and should be fought by everyone.

Encouraging people to speak up in the workplace is not just about women speaking out against prejudice, but having their male counterparts do the same. If a workplace is serious about its commitment to gender balance, it must encourage speaking up and showing true allyship.

Let’s look to Germany for an example. After recently voting in their first male Chancellor for 16 years, for the first time in their history they have selected a cabinet with a 50:50 gender split. As Olaf Scholz explained, “Women and men account for half the population, so women should also get half the power.”

Inviting someone into the conversation and acknowledging their skills and expertise is vital to normalising diverse leadership, building a supportive community and driving organisational change.

But progress must be maintained. A point to make for all of the above is that we must set ourselves ambitious targets, and ensure we stick to them; surpass them, even. If we do, then in the years to come, we’ll not only be looking back on a far more positive workplace for women, but for everyone. And as much as we want to see progress for gender parity being made, there are other aspects and dimensions that require actions for a more diverse and equitable workplace, so anyone can feel at their best.

About the author

Lotus SmitsLotus is currently leading the Global Diversity, Inclusion and Culture Team at Glovo. She has always been fascinated by human behaviour and dynamics. After receiving her master’s degree in Behavioural and Organisational Psychology from the University of Amsterdam, Lotus worked as part of the people team for Vodafone in London and then at in Amsterdam. In 2017, Lotus moved into a role building the Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing strategy & programs from scratch, and this allowed her to discover her passion for creating a healthier, fairer working environment. Lotus wants to empower everyone to feel connected, valued and to fulfil their full potential at work.