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Women in Business

Why Everyone Benefits From an Equitable Workplace

Shelley Zalis

Founder and CEO, The Female Quotient

As companies realize the value of diversity in the workplace, a shift toward gender equality is occurring. We spoke to The Female Quotient founder and CEO Shelley Zalis about why a diverse team is critical in any industry and what organizations can do to foster diversity and cultural competency.

How does equality in the workplace affect company culture?

Equality helps create a culture of care and belonging where workers feel safe speaking up regardless of their gender, race, age, or sexual orientation. When you feel like you belong somewhere, your work ethic improves because you feel like it’s your company, too.

Rather than just admiring the problem, we have to take steps to make change. You can’t just say that you’re committed to equality if you’re not taking action steps toward equality. 

Also, it’s not only the top leaders who are responsible for advancing equality in the workplace — equality is everyone’s responsibility. Change doesn’t start from top-down leadership — it happens at every level.

How can equality in the workplace improve employee engagement?

Equality helps attract and retain the best talent — especially for millennials, who have equality in their DNA and want to work for companies that create cultures of care. 

The best way to ensure we have a culture of equality is to do life-stage profiling for every employee, because we all have different needs at different stages of our lives. For example, we need different things when we have small children versus when we’re caring for aging parents. If we can create policies that reflect life-stage needs, we will have higher attraction and retention rates, and happier employees.

Can you provide some examples of companies that are getting equality in the workplace right?

Every company is at different stages in their equality journey. Transformation happens in steps and we need to create measurements for accountability to get there. 

The Female Quotient uses four key vitals to measure the equality health of a company, which are outlined in the Modern Guide to Equality. They are: 

  1. Parity, which includes closing the wage gap and ensuring all employees have equal opportunities, such as adjusting strategies for hiring and retaining female talent.
  2. Advancement, such as creating access to mentors and sponsors, and coaching where we are not trying to “fix women” but rather coaching men.
  3. Leadership, with an emphasis on values of inclusivity, communicating those values, and having accountability around equality and diversity initiatives. 
  4. Culture, and how to rewrite the rules for a new workplace culture that goes beyond textbook training.
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