Creating Equality in the Workplace: Removing Double Standards

Creating Equality in the Workplace: Removing Double Standards

Do men get the same level of scrutiny as women?

There are 7.8 billion inhabitants on Earth and women are the majority. Yet each day brings a new fight, big or small, to the daily agenda.

Women have always had to fight a little bit harder than their male counterparts to achieve equality when it comes to wages, perceptions, advantages, opportunities, etc. We've been fighting this fight for hundreds of years. But the recent ousting of one of the most recognized faces in Canadian television due to the colour of her hair, lit a renewed fire under those who continue to fight for women's equality and empowerment.

In this post we'll discuss briefly what happened, how equality differs between men and women, and how businesses can do something about it.

Table of Contents:

The decision that broke the Internet

On June 29th, Bell Media made a 'business decision' to abruptly cut ties with Lisa LaFlamme, a 35-year anchor at CTV.  This news came as a complete shock to the twitter verse who erupted at volcanic levels to display their utter shock and anger at this ludicrous and unceremonious departure of one of Canada's most recognized and respected news anchors. Ageism is one aspect of blame for the departure because LaFlamme decided to go naturally grey during the pandemic. Other reasons cite sexism and workplace differences. Whatever the reason or reasons, it's not looking good for Bell Media and its vice president.

What's most recently been reported is the executive at the centre of this firing, Michael Melling, is alleged to have been interfering with the news coverage at different levels and LaFlamme pushed back, citing differing views and ideas on how programming support should work. It's noted that this executive does not take kindly to women pushing back so his solution to women standing their ground is to either shuffle them off to different roles, or in LaFlamme's case, cut ties.

News of female leadership being treated unfairly this week hasn't stopped there. Recently, Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin had to publicly apologize for dancing with friends at a private party held in her official residence. And if that wasn't enough, she recently, and voluntarily, took a drug test, which came back negative, to prove she is not taking drugs, and dancing with friends is not a symptom of taking drugs.

Women feel like they take two steps forward, and three steps back

Harassment of women in the workplace continues to see an ongoing pattern of occurrences. Women around the world are disproportionately affected by gender-based inequality, harassment, assault and violence while at their place of work. A Canadian workplace public consultation recently found that harassment was the most common type of behaviour experienced by respondents, 60% reported having experienced it. While 30% of respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment.

Recent statistics posted by TeamStage indicate that 47.7% of the global workforce is made up of women:

  • Canada has the highest female labour force participation rate at 61.3%
  • Women hold 50.04% of all jobs in the US
  • 50.2% of the college-educated workforce are women
  • Only 27.1% of women are managers and leaders
  • 42% of women claim they have been discriminated at work because of their gender

What is the definition of a double standard in the workplace?

A double standard refers to a situation where two different sets of principles, rules, or expectations are applied to two different groups of people, even though they are performing the same or similar work. Factors that can attribute to this include gender, race, ethnicity, age, or other personal characteristics. In this scope, people are being held to different standards based on their identity rather than their job performance, which can lead to unfairness and discrimination in the workplace.

Some common examples of double standards seen everyday in the workplace include:

  • Men can be praised for being assertive and confident while women are criticized for the same behavior and are labeled as "bossy" or "aggressive"
  • Older employees can be perceived as being less competent and having fewer opportunities for advancement compared to younger colleagues, even with similar or more experience
  • Women being expected to dress professionally and wear makeup, while men can dress more casually and are not judged on their physical appearance as much
  • Employees who are parents or caregivers being perceived as less committed to their work, while those who are not parents or caregivers are viewed as more dedicated and reliable

How does a double standard affect the workplace?

Double standards can create a toxic work environment that can negatively impact the productivity, morale, and success of an organization. For employers, it's important to recognize double standards and to address them in the workplace to create a fair and inclusive work environment for all employees. Following are some examples of how double standards affect the workplace:

  • Decreased workplace productivity: When employees feel they are being held to different standards, it can create a sense of unfairness and undermine their motivation to work hard and be productive
  • Decreased employee morale: Double standards can create an unhealthy work environment where employees feel undervalued, unappreciated, and unsupported, leading to lower morale and job satisfaction
  • Increased staff turnover: Employees who experience double standards may feel frustrated and undervalued, leading them to look for other job opportunities elsewhere
  • Legal issues: Double standards that are based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, age, and disability can lead to legal issues such as discrimination lawsuits
  • Lost job opportunities: Double standards can prevent qualified and capable employees from advancing and reaching their full potential, which can limit the organization's success and growth

What steps can employers take to eliminate double standards in the workplace?

Employers can take steps and implement processes to help create a fair and inclusive workplace where all employees are held to the same standards, have equal opportunities, and are able to succeed and advance in their careers:

  • Create clear performance metrics: Establish clear and objective criteria for evaluating employee performance. Ensure all employees are evaluated against the same standards
  • Train managers and employees on diversity and inclusion: Training and resources on diversity and inclusion can help all stakeholders understand how their biases and assumptions can affect their behavior in the workplace
  • Implement policies and procedures that promote fairness and equity: Establish policies and procedures that promote fairness and equity in the workplace, such as pay equity, equal access to opportunities for career advancement, and anti-discrimination policies
  • Encourage a speak-up culture: Encourage employees to speak up if they experience or witness double standards in the workplace. Provide a safe and confidential reporting mechanism to ensure that all concerns are addressed promptly and appropriately
  • Hold management accountable: Hold all leaders accountable for promoting a fair and inclusive workplace. Incorporate metrics related to diversity and inclusion into performance evaluations for managers and leaders
  • Celebrate diversity: Celebrate the diversity of your workforce. Ensure employees feel valued and included. Encourage employee resource groups and other initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace

What is the role of employees in creating equality in the workplace?

Like leaders, employees too play an important role in creating equality in their workplace. Here are some ways employees can contribute:

  • Keeping educated on diversity and inclusion: Employees can take the initiative to educate themselves on diversity and inclusion, how to recognize it, and address bias and discrimination in the workplace
  • See something, say something: Employees can speak-up if they witness double standards or discrimination in the workplace. They can bring any concerns to their managers, HR department, or use other methods like anonymous reporting channels
  • Challenge their own biases: Employees can challenge their own biases and assumptions about others and seek to understand and appreciate different perspectives and experiences
  • Support diversity and inclusion initiatives: Employees can support diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace, such as employee resource groups or mentoring programs for underrepresented groups
  • Help foster an inclusive work environment: Employees can foster an inclusive work environment by respecting and valuing their colleagues differences. Employees should speak-up against discriminatory behavior to help promote a culture of fairness and respect

Do your employees feel safe speaking up about discrimination?

Everyone deserves the power to speak-up. But the #1 reason for remaining silent is fear of retaliation. Employees need to be able to speak-up when they see their co-workers being harassed, or not treated fairly.

Many businesses direct their focus to performance and profits so it's natural that the more "human side of things" might get inadvertently shuffled aside. The focus on promoting and fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace just may not be top of mind. This type of oversight could be impacting your business profits and success more than you may realize. Businesses perform better with more diverse teams, and see better results.

Creating a DEI-friendly space is just half the battle. You also need to have a way for your employees to raise concerns or report unethical behaviour in the workplace, and for your HR team to address any complaints professionally. The best way to do this is by implementing a whistleblower hotline.

Keep pushing for change - creating better speak-up cultures

Here we are, half way through 2023 and many employees are still fighting for equal rights. Many employees get judged on the way they dress or the way they speak, and what they do in their personal lives. Change does not happen unless everyone speaks-up. When organizations treat every employee fairly and promote open and inclusive conversation without fear of retaliation, employees thrive, the business thrives.

A speak-up workplace culture is one that is a healthy, supportive environment, where team members feel free to bring ideas to the table, share opinions and concerns without retaliation or penalty.

Many organizations use a whistleblower hotline as a confidential channel for employees to voice concerns without fear of reprisal. Employees will call a hotline or fill out an online form to report wrongdoing, discrimination or violence in the workplace, and they can do it anonymously. The system then notifies the appropriate senior-level managers so they can investigate the claims immediately. An anonymous hotline lets employees know that the company not only cares about having a diverse and inclusive environment, but they also take discrimination against other employees seriously

As business owners or leaders, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all employees are given equal opportunities, regardless of their race, religion, marital status, sexual orientation or physical health, and are provided with the opportunity to voice concerns safely.

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photo Amanda Nieweler
About the Author
Amanda writes for WhistleBlower Security about ethics, compliance, workplace culture, and whistleblower hotlines. Amanda brings her nearly two decades of risk and compliance experience to the WBS blog where she is dedicated to helping people and companies promote speak-up cultures.

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