It’s 2018 and women have been fully assimilated in the workplace for years. Despite this fact, there are still so many issues facing working women, and not just those in the sports industry.
Women I know and love struggle with work-life balance, unequal pay, discrimination, sexual harassment, lack of mentorship, limited opportunities to move up the ladder, and more. We often work twice as hard and twice as much just to be “accepted,” but we’ll still never be treated like “one of the guys.” In a world where “it’s all about who you know,” being a woman usually doesn’t “pay off in the long run.”
Cheesy phrases and clichés aside, the goal here is not to complain. Instead, the goal is to explain just how you can help progress the rights and acceptance of females in the workplace.
The first way and arguably most important way to start is by helping to help create a culture of acceptance in your workplace. Building an all-inclusive space where women and men can share ideas and feel comfortable with each other is so important to the success of the department, but it's also vital to ensuring that your team’s culture is positive.
This may seem simple in theory, but its difficult in practice because it requires buy-in and effort from every single person on staff, and not just in the form of some passive online training. It means listening when people speak and treating others with respect, both in public and behind closed doors. It means not questioning whether or not the females on your staff should work with the football team, but instead figuring out the best way to make it happen. It means actively networking and hiring people who look differently than you because of their qualifications and perspective. It’s a group effort, and one that should not be taken lightly.
Building a culture of acceptance does not (I repeat: does not) mean building a culture of tolerance. Women, minorities, and other culturally oppressed people should never just be tolerated; they should be accepted — wholeheartedly and without question or limitations. Is there a working mother on staff who needs access to a lactation room? Make one. Is there someone who doesn’t feel comfortable using gender-specific bathrooms? Build a new bathroom. There should be no discussion about these things except for where they should go; cost and space are not roadblocks. Figure it out.
Is there ongoing conversation in your department about whether or not female employees should travel due to the added cost of an extra hotel room? I’ve heard that one before. But in reality, that conversation shouldn’t even be happening, so end it. In fact, go ahead and end any and all conversations that center around concerns for budget or accommodations because of a a female employee. Instead, ask yourself this one question: Is this “thing” (i.e. travel, extra bathroom, etc.) necessary? If the answer is yes, then the answer is yes -- no more discussion.
Workplace culture doesn’t always center around budget implications, though that, of course, is extremely important. Sometimes building a positive workplace culture simply requires some positive talk and putting in some extra effort to make the environment feel inclusive. If you’re a male manager looking to host an after-hours event for the staff, take into consideration that you have an office made up of a varied group of individuals. Is happy hour the right call? Maybe. Is it the right call if you have 20 males and one female on staff? Maybe. Is an all-male golf outing your best bet if there are others who aren’t invited or can not participate? Absolutely not. Instead, host events that everyone can feel comfortable at.
Additionally, supervisors should have conversations about gender-positive language. It’s sad that this needs to be said, but negative comments and slurs regarding race, gender, ability, and sexuality are not acceptable - in any form. Even as a joke. There’s no wiggle room on this one, so I’ll leave it at that.
The final piece of advice that I have on this topic is to ask questions. Do not assume that your female coworkers don’t want to go golfing or attend happy hour. Having conversations is the best way to understand what your coworkers are comfortable with - no matter their race, gender, sexulality, creed, or abililty. And finally, do not assume that all women are emotional basketcases who are going to cry if you provide critical feedback. You can’t expect women to progress in this field if no one is having difficult conversations with us about our work.
Providing a positive and accepting environment is essential to your department’s success, but it’s also a really important step on the way to improving workplaces around the country. No matter your position, we can all do our part.