There is no question that gender roles have evolved tremendously throughout the past couple of centuries. For example, in 2017, Ancestry.com pointed out some huge shifts in the gender gap, such as the rising prominence of women in occupations such as bank tellers and nurses. Women used to play a minor role in the workforce, but women’s’ presence in fields like finance and STEM have also boomed. Industrialization throughout the years also didn’t hurt, as it brought many new jobs for women who would have otherwise stayed at home.
Even though significant progress that has already been made, shrinking the gender gap in the workplace is a prominent movement today. A 2018 Catalyst article showed that many people still view men as the leaders in the industry and therefore the “glass ceiling” still exists. Even though women make up almost half of the workforce, they only hold around a third of management positions. A blunt statistic in the article states that in the United States, “there are fewer women in leadership positions than there are men named John.” Mindset and expectations also add to the issue because despite women playing a huge part in retail today, many still imagine top management being made up of men.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies promise to promote more women to senior positions but don’t follow through, which stalls progress. Quite often, though, this happens because the companies don’t have a set plan or even know where to start.
Harvard Business Review has released a comprehensive report of things that can be done in order to expand women’s roles in management. The first set of practices mentioned make up the category of “leadership commitment and accountability.” Overall, companies must be made up of executives who truly do want gender equality in the workforce and are willing to take actions that will allow more women to move into management. Looking at diversity metrics and creating a diversity taskforce are two examples of things that can give a visual of a company’s current setup and provide insight into places where improvements can be made.
Secondly, a company’s policies must also contain practices that can help women advance in retail. Enforcements such as required sexual harassment trainings and diversity seminars can build awareness of inequalities and provide information on how to remedy them. This is important, seeing as how around 79% of women report leaving the jobs in which they have been harassed. Also, some women report choosing to be unemployed or in lower positions because they have children to care for and cannot meet the demands of a management positions, so implementing things like a “dependent care expense account” and more flexible scheduling might be able to help women move up.
Thirdly, career development opportunities are critical to the advancement of women into management positions. The report mentioned that Sodexo created a mentorship program that “emphasizes cross-gender and cross-race/ethnicity connections among junior staff and managers.” This has shown some success, as around thirty percent of female participants received promotions between 2005 and 2010. Also, trainings such as management trainings and continuing job trainings can help women stay up to date on everything from people skills in the corporate world to how to stay knowledgeable about their companies and the retail industry.
The Harvard Business Review release also noted that many executives of companies state the reason they don’t take part in these steps to increase women’s presence in management is because they “lack a clear business case for investing in women’s early professional development.” In order to solve this, women need to keep putting effort into getting promoted and the aforementioned steps need to be taken by companies.
Larger corporations such as IKEA and Starbucks have made pledges that they will promote women’s places in the workforce and it is hoped that many more corporations will follow in their footsteps and implement practices to create more equality.