16 Ways Executives Can Promote Gender and Racial Equity

For every 100 men promoted to first-level managers, there are only 87 women promoted, which means men are more likely and consistently in senior/executive positions over women. Gender and racial equity are achieved when resources, opportunities, and benefits are available regardless of an individual’s gender or race. 

To promote better gender and racial equity in the workplace, companies at the senior and executive levels need to recognize issues of inclusivity and make consistent efforts. The McKinsey & Company study on Women in the Workplace in 2022 found that women leaders are 1.5 times as likely as men to leave a company that isn’t committed to DEI. 

Not every woman has the authority to implement improvements to gender and racial equity in the workplace. Whether you are a senior manager in a corporation or your own boss, actively supporting your peers through DEI efforts in the workplace, no matter how small, is imperative. Working for a company that is committed and recognizes those efforts is even more so.  

Gender Equity and Racial Equity in the Workplace Today

Gender and race go hand-in-hand when it comes to women’s issues. Not only are women less likely to be in executive positions, but women of color are especially underrepresented the higher up the corporate ladder. 

For the women at senior levels, it is important to understand what you can do to support other women in your organization. The more women support women, the smaller the gender and equity gap will become for future generations.

Ways to Promote Gender and Racial Equity

  1. Participate and endorse advocacy groups

Forming a safe space to discuss personal experiences regarding issues of gender and race in an organization is significant. Not only does it provide marginalized individuals with a network of supportive allies, but it also shows them their opinions matter to the company. Participating in these groups provides a consistent learning opportunity and awareness of how the organization can do better. Endorsing the group goes one step further by growing the community of allies. 

  1. Visible opportunities for BIPOC

Sometimes communicating information about promotions or stretch opportunities are limited to a small group of individuals. Sharing those opportunities with your network to take on new projects, travel to conferences, apply for a higher position, and more is a simple but effective way of promoting gender and racial equity. 

  1. Giving credit

Every woman experienced a man saying their idea thirty seconds after they did and getting the credit for it. Staying quiet and allowing men to take over meeting spaces and use women’s ideas widens the gap. Especially when 40 percent of women leaders aren’t acknowledged for their DEI work in performance reviews. 

In an effort to decrease this percentage, women can support each other by sharing the amazing work done by their female coworkers. One way is to send a simple email with their manager cc’d detailing all their work, ideas, and accomplishments. Who wouldn’t want to brag about their friends!?

  1. Mentor and sponsor other women 

For women in executive positions, a more impactful way of promoting gender and racial equity in the workplace is to become a mentor and sponsor. Your years of experience can be passed down to other women to help them rise up the ladder. Plus, you are in the room with all the male VPs and CEOs giving you access to the people in charge, which makes you an ideal sponsor for other women. 

  1. Confronting discrimination 

No matter what level on the corporate ladder, seeing discrimination and staying quiet is the worst thing you can do as an ally. You wouldn’t want to stay quiet if someone was bullying your friend, so defending any coworker who is discriminated against, such as power abuse, microaggressions, sexist or racist comments, etc., should feel the same way. Indirectly interrupting the conversations by pulling the individual aside or dropping what you’re holding is one way of stopping things immediately. Directly confronting discrimination can bring awareness as a teaching opportunity and/or enforce DEI guidelines and punishments. As an ally, either way, your choice to confront discrimination will help other women feel supported and valued.

  1. Discuss an action plan with senior management

Real change to DEI efforts in a company begins when those in charge make conscious and consistent actions. Not every woman is in that position. But, women can discuss with their managers what their action plans for improving gender and racial equity are. Recommend advocacy groups, books, podcasts, or other materials to them. Be honest about how they could change to become a better ally. Reflect on what you can do to support those who make policy changes.  

  1. Setting a DEI mission with clear expectations 

Women business owners and entrepreneurs can develop a DEI mission for their organization. Some questions you can ask yourself when considering a mission include: How are you approaching gender and racial equity? How can you be transparent about what is working and what isn’t? What do you expect your employees to do to support that mission? What happens if someone does not uphold the company’s standards or discriminates against other employees? 

  1. Enforce the rules and punishments

Women in leadership positions have the authority to enforce DEI efforts. When an individual constantly discriminates, it is important to follow through with the rules and punishments dictated by HR. It follows the system the organization has in place, and proves that you take DEI issues seriously to your team. They will know you have their back and rely on you more in the future. 

  1. Acknowledge and adjust when the system fails

Developing a system that supports DEI efforts and eliminates discrimination will not be done perfectly the first time. Issues are bound to come up. Thus, receiving regular feedback on the organization’s DEI performance from employees and adjusting accordingly will ensure consistent development over the years. Even if you do not have the authority to change it, talking to those who do can get things moving in the right direction. 

  1. Share DEI data on the company with employees

For women business owners, sharing data from HR on diversity throughout your company will let prospective hires know you uphold gender and racial equity. Couple it with your statement on how you plan to improve DEI efforts in the coming year. This transparency shows where there is room for improvement, and opens the door for more conversations. 

  1. Acknowledge unconscious bias and microaggressions

Being an ally also means recognizing what you are unaware of when it comes to perpetuating gender and racial stereotypes or issues. We interact on a day-to-day basis with our coworkers, so we should work to create a supportive company culture. There are many ways women can recognize their unconscious biases such as through advocacy groups, training, outside research, reading, listening to other women, etc.  

  1. Creating an inclusive workplace 

Despite industry differences and leadership positions, an inclusive workplace can be the start of gender and racial equity. Ask other women to join in on projects they have expertise in or can learn from. Provide accessibility equipment for women with invisible and visible disabilities. Offer flexible working hours and work-from-home options for mothers, caregivers, etc. Designate gender-neutral bathrooms for nonbinary and transgender individuals.

  1. Consistent training for everyone on how to become better Antiracist and Antisexist Allies 

The key to promoting gender and racial equity in the workplace is consistent training. The more we continue to support other women, the more equitable the workplace becomes. Training can include incentives for coming, bringing speakers to share their experiences, collaborating with non-profit organizations, requiring resources, etc.

  1. Equal benefits and pay as male counterparts

This might seem obvious for women in leadership positions, but for those not in leadership, it is something to be aware of. Share what your salary is with your male and female coworkers. Find out who is making more than you, why are they making more than you, do you have the same benefits as everyone else, etc. Open conversations about salary and benefits will make the gender and racial pay gap transparent.

  1. Reviewing Hiring Process for Equitability 

Who you hire should be dependent on their skills and experience, not their gender or race. Find out how you can instill an equitable hiring process here

  1. Hire DEI consultants

Women business owners or executives can hire DEI consultants to review your company. They are experts in helping organizations grow and support minority groups. They can offer outside-of-the-box solutions and improve everyone’s problem-solving skills. Find DEI consultants in the IAW community!

Diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace will always be evolving and reevaluated to ensure that everyone is included. Partner with IAW to help create more equity in your hiring process. Our partnerships and ERG solutions will help you stand out as an employer of choice for women. Learn more here: https://www.iawomen.com/partners

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