The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has existed for nearly 60 years, but efforts to make the workplace a level playing field continue to face strong headwinds. Though the EEOC and both legislative and cultural changes have worked to reduce the impact of elements such as racism in the hiring process, there remain some structural and cultural barriers that keep companies from realizing the full potential of their workforce.
Inequalities that continue to exist between men and women are one such problem. The gender pay gap is a well-known and well-studied problem that continues to be an issue in many industries, but there are other problems. The lack of any federally mandated paid family leave policy often means that women who become mothers do so at the expense of career opportunities and advancement.
Even those who perform at the highest levels in their roles can find little support from their companies once they give birth. Benefits programs that fail to consider this could inadvertently discriminate against talented workers that could provide your business with many benefits.
How you write job listings and advertise postings can also leak bias into the process. One analysis of listings found that softer, more "feminine" words populated listings where employers expected women to reply. In contrast, more action-oriented words appeared in listings where managers hoped to find men. Thinking about job roles and openings in such a limited way is not only a form of discrimination, but this bias can actively prevent a company from acquiring the talent they need to succeed.
For employers, there are opportunities to be proactive and to take action that can contribute to reducing the impacts of these inequalities. While there is little federal action waiting in the wings, especially on paid family leaves, companies can still be agents of social change in their own communities.
The pay gap is a simple problem to address when a company chooses to equalize earnings across the board—the same pay for the same position. As many jurisdictions take action to make it illegal for employers to ask about an applicant's prior compensation, companies may consider voluntarily ending salary verification efforts. Advocates believe that evaluating every candidate based on suitability and not their prior salary is an important step towards eliminating unfair and unequal compensation between men and women.
Businesses should also consider how to improve their culture by fostering safer workplaces that emphasize the importance of diversity. In the age of #MeToo, for example, employing stricter anti-harassment policies—and actually enforcing them—can go a long way towards improving the work environment. Better screening of candidates against criminal history records and sex offender registries also contributes to protecting everyone at work.
No company can change the world overnight and eliminate workplace inequalities, but every change has to start somewhere. Consider how your business might benefit from being one that steps forward to go beyond value and mission statements to effect real change.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments