Workplace culture

Gender Inequality and Toxic Workplace Culture: Creating a Supportive Environment for Women

February 25, 2021

Creating a supportive environment can help decrease gender inequality and repair a toxic workplace culture. Diversity, including gender diversity, contributes to improved decision-making and reduces conflicts among groups. Fostering diverse viewpoints and strengthening workplace equality improves collaboration and integrates different perspectives and problem-solving approaches.

As expectations around social responsibility become more widespread, organizations that advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, that provide a safe, supportive work environment for women, and that make efforts to improve diversity are recognized for their efforts with a better company image and customer loyalty among those who share their values and beliefs.

How can you improve toxic workplace culture and help create a
supportive work environment for women?

Management plays a role in improving equality and diversity at all levels of the organization, and while more companies see the value of gender diversity and recognize the barriers women face in the workplace, women are still underrepresented in the workforce, and they continue to face challenges related to gender imbalances at work.

A Diversity in the Workplace Policy provides guidelines to prevent discrimination in employment practices.

Besides the issues we typically hear about, like pay inequality, a lack of diversity affects how women experience their workplace, particularly its culture.

Doucment - Diversity in the Workplace Policy

A toxic culture creates a hostile working environment
where women are likely to encounter:

  • Gender based biases, discrimination, and stereotypes;
  • Harassment, sexism, and sexual harassment;
  • Gender-based microaggressions, such as being questioned on competence or seniority or assigned specific duties because of gender;
  • Being dismissed, ignored, undermined, or interrupted by men; and
  • Unprofessional communication and demeaning or degrading remarks.

Employers must recognize and end any toxicity in their organization by building an inclusive culture based on equality and respect that breaks down gender barriers, and creates an empowering, supportive environment conducive to women’s success and safety in the workplace. Download our Managing Toxic Workplace Behaviour Checklist for guidance on managing and addressing toxic behaviour in the workplace.

illustration-of-a-female-holding-a-paper

So how can organizations create a positive culture
and environment for women?

  • Make women feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work;
  • Don’t discredit women’s capabilities, knowledge, or expertise based on gender stereotypes;
  • Encourage men to advocate and champion for women, question gender roles, and provide feedback on addressing inequality;
  • Avoid negative comments, or making “you should” or “you shouldn’t” remarks on how women look, act, or are dressed, unless it violates company policies or dress codes;
  • Encourage women to speak up about their concerns, and ensure that they’re comfortable reporting discrimination or harassment;
  • Promote approachable managers so employees can come to them with any reasonable questions;
  • Provide support for work–life challenges that women are likely to encounter, such as family care responsibilities;
  • Hold employees accountable and establish zero-tolerance guidelines for discrimination and harassment; and
  • Actively support women’s careers by educating and empowering female employees through professional experiences and maintaining equal access to opportunities and career advancements.

By creating a positive workplace culture that’s free of toxic behaviours, and committing to gender equality and diversity, companies can provide a safe work environment for all employees.

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