Gender equality in the workplace: 7 taboos to know
Rémi Zunino
Rémi Zunino

Gender equality in the workplace: 7 taboos to know

Since January 27, 2011 and the Copé-Zimmerman law aimed at promoting professional equality between men and women, more and more companies are taking this issue seriously. In particular, they are taking care to support female talent by ensuring that they are included in promotion plans, and to raise awareness among managers and executives through training on stereotypes, bias and gender management.

In spite of these initiatives, there are still taboos around these subjects which are not often discussed in companies. What if we talked about the blocks, the beliefs, the convictions that no one talks about, but that everyone hears out loud, or softly, under the carpet in companies?

At Talentis, we have identified 7 taboos that concern the subject of gender diversity in companies. Here they are:

Taboo n°1: positive discrimination.

The first taboo is the notion of positive discrimination. All companies that want to succeed in the challenge of gender diversity set clear objectives in terms of results or progress. These measures, despite their proven effectiveness, are still too often described as positive discrimination

Taboo #2: There are fewer opportunities for men than before.

Certainly, if we do a quick calculation of how many women, in percentage and volume, we need to appoint to achieve parity or a little more mix at each stage, perhaps we will see that there are a few less opportunities for men than before. And if we say things in reverse: there are more opportunities for women. That is, instead of having four chances out of five to be promoted, men will only have two chances out of four. Let's say we go back to the norm, that's true equality.

Taboo n°3: women are promoted only because of their gender.

It is true that companies have so much time and money and such extraordinary results that they have time to appoint incompetent people to strategic positions! That's not true, if people are appointed, men or women, it's primarily because they are good and have the potential to succeed in their new position.

Whether you are a man or a woman, there is always a one in three chance that you will not succeed (30% of managers take up a position and fail within 2 years).

Taboo n°4: to achieve parity, we just add a few chairs for women.

How can we improve parity in management committees? It's very simple, we'll add more chairs. For example, if we have 12 men in a Comex of 12, we will simply enlarge this group, add 4 women and that will make a Comex of 16 people with 4 women, that is 25%. This is very nice on the picture. It would just be necessary for the companies that use this process to openly acknowledge it. It's not a shame to try to make progress in this way. It opens up the subject of gender diversity around these circles of influence and management to gradually "accustom" the system to parity. The problem with this process is that it keeps a little hidden side that is annoying.

Taboo n°5: the figures given are not the right ones.

Today, we know that there are more and more companies that try to count, to disguise the figures in terms of promotions, departures, appointments. It's quite painful and it doesn't help things to not be absolutely transparent in terms of gender figures at all levels of the organization. The more transparent we are, the more we will have the confidence of our teams, the confidence of our clients, the confidence of our service providers in our true and honest desire to improve the diversity of our teams.

Taboo #6: pretending to be interested in the subject.

Some individuals, especially men, will give the image of going to listen to lectures on stereotypes, of coming wisely to training, but behind their backs they will say to themselves: "Guys, we're supporting ourselves." These phrases, we hear them very often and it's frankly a shame! If they are not happy, let them say so openly! It is up to the HRDs and the sponsors of these gender diversity programs to take an interest in these rumors.  

Taboo n°7 : men's groups openly committed against co-education.

The seventh taboo is indeed to talk openly about groups of men who do not hide their opposition to gender diversity or parity in the workplace. These groups exist, we hear them. At Talentis we see them but it remains taboo in the sense that we don't put them forward and say: "There is a problem, we have to go work with these people who are clearly against gender diversity. And that's a problem." That is to say, in order to move towards gender diversity, you have to go out and find the detractors and work with them rather than sweep it under the rug and say, "It doesn't exist."

In order to move towards more gender diversity in the company, we must of course work on all the levers we have already mentioned - scorecards, training, coaching, manager education - but we must also talk about taboos and not only about bias and stereotypes. We need to lift the taboos, discuss the subjects that make people angry, and put them on the table to move forward.

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