Companies Can Create Equality for Women 

by Carlynne McDonnell


Time and time again women hear how far they have come and how the glass ceiling has been shattered. But, while women have made excellent progress, there is much left to do to achieve equality. Maintaining the status quo hurts women today and into the future. Treating women employees with a lack of respect or value hurts the company in the long term. Corporations want employees to be excellent; women should expect and request the same of their employers.

Pay discrepancies and sexist attitudes continue to raise their ugly heads (recently, with the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, and at the BNP Paribas tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California). In every occupation, women make less than men, currently averaged at 81 cents for women to $1.00 for men, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research report about 2015 earnings. And in Silicon Valley, women are very under-represented — about 30 percent of the employees overall are women, according to a CNET Women in Tech report from 2015.

So how far have women really come? Not nearly far enough. And the hard work and commitment that it will take to get women parity and protection in the workforce requires a corporate willingness to fix the inequality and women employees to speak up. Women can no longer be willing to accept less and can no longer be happy maintaining the status quo.

Companies have a right to expect employees to be productive, committed and engaged. In turn employees should be valued, respected, insulated from bias/behavior and be paid equally for equal work.

Six Ways to Create Equality in the Workplace


Be an exceptional leader. A company’s management team becomes the personal face to its employees. How people are managed directly relates to how employee’s feel — appreciation, value, commitment and morale. Treating employees with respect and fairness is the most basic trait of an exceptional leader and sets the stage for how employees will treat each other.

Communication is a key tool for creating equality in the workplace. With the dispersal of information, all employees feel knowledgeable and involved and a part of the organization.

Listening and really hearing is very important in discerning issues of low morale or conflict. Management needs to be available to employees and open-minded. It’s all about the work product, but work should be a place where people can excel and achieve. Most importantly, they need to lead by example.

Be aware of bias. Everyone has bias. Regardless of upbringing or societal influences, bias has no place in the workforce. Management needs to evaluate employees objectively and focus on performance and product, and be aware of issues of bias with regard to women, race and national origin. Equality comes from judging all employees on an even basis and being aware of and eliminating subjective feelings or opinions as much as possible.

Company leadership should never let another manager or employee behave inappropriately without taking action. The messages that are sent and the behavior that could follow by not reacting can create actionable circumstances.

Establish no-tolerance policies. Work should never be a place where inappropriate conduct exists. If not handled quickly and with serious consequences, overly familiar behavior or joking that crosses the line becomes acceptable. Being very clear in policies, procedures and merit reviews about how the company handles sexual harassment and discrimination sends a message that a productive, welcoming and safe work environment is a priority.


Be a team player. The employee should strive to be exceptional, committed to the job and company. An employee’s exceptional productivity and commitment can demand corporate excellence in return. She should be prepared to lead, to participate, to seek opportunity; to show up and be engaged; to meet deadlines; to be on time; to help the company or organization realize its goals and dreams.

Treating others with respect is a great asset as a leader, collaborator and team member.

Set behavior boundaries for oneself and others. The employee should be unwilling to accept inappropriate behavior, and communicate those expectations in a courteous but clear way. If personal boundaries are not respected, she should document and seek corporate help.

Overly friendly behavior does not belong at work. Respectful, courteous and professional are ideal behaviors for the workplace. People should never play games with each other at work. Women, especially, need to maintain a high level of professionalism to avoid having friendliness misinterpreted as an invitation for inappropriate attention.

When all else fails … Exceptional performance and commitment do not guarantee respect or equitable treatment. It’s important to respond to a situation of pay inequality, sexual harassment or discrimination by taking action. The employee will need to keep excellent records — who, what, when, where, why and details.

The starting point is speaking to one’s supervisor or someone in the reporting chain; next is to go to Human Resources and ask for help. Documentation makes all the difference in the world and guards against misrepresentation of the truth or a “bad joke” misinterpreted. If the employee feels the situation is not resolving, outside advice can be obtained from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a state agency or an attorney.

Carlynne McDonnell, founder of Change In Our Lifetime, Inc., is the author of The Every Woman’s Guide to Equality. Her position is that achieving equality for women and ending violence against women is vital, and she has spoken about women’s equality on college campuses, at student leadership conferences, in the workplace and for the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Did You Know?

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 did not resolve the disparity between men’s and women’s pay rates. According to a White House website, “Decades of research shows that no matter how you evaluate the data, there remains a pay gap — even after factoring in the kind of work people do, or qualifications such as education and experience.”
  • President Obama dedicated the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument on Capitol Hill on April 12. Designated “Equal Pay Day” by the National Committee on Pay Equity, April 12 is the day that women had to work until this year just to earn the salary that men made last year.

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