7 Red Flags That Indicate Gender Washing
How to check an organisation for gender washing
A company might sound like they are diverse and inclusive, but make sure to do a thorough investigation into gender washing.
The company sounds great. They might have a banner on their website saying they are committed to diversity and inclusion as well as gender balance. Maybe they also have a policy statement about closing the gender pay gap. Perhaps they have an occasional picture of a woman and even a woman of colour on the careers page. The job ad seems appealing and could be suitable. You have a good feeling but think you should check them out in detail. How do you know if they really follow through and are making things happen?
Here are 7 gender washing red flags
1. All male board
Look for the composition of their board and if possible, check for photos. All white men? Red flag. If they do have any women, cross-check the number of women as a percentage of the total number on the board. One CEO told a 3Plus client that they had taken care of gender balance. There was only one woman on the board. Remember that the male perception of the advancement towards gender balance is different to a woman's. If one man is replaced by a woman, they all think progress is being made. In Europe, more than half of all men (55%) think gender equality has been achieved at work, compared to 42% of women.
2. Pink skill silos
Look at the key roles in the organisation. Chief HR Officer, CFO, Chief Marketing Officer, COO etc. What do you see? Are the women in HR and marketing, or in other P & L functions as well? See if you can find any stats about the women in their ranks and look for any female role models within the organisation. Are they visible and even easy to contact? What functions are they in?
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3. Male coded job ad
Run the job posting you are looking at through a gender de-coder such as Kat Matfield. How does it look? Has the organisation made any effort to use inclusive language? While you are doing that you can also check the website and other communication. Is it full of words like winner, knock it out of the park, ninja and black belt? Unless you are in tech, take care. It might be another gender washing red flag.
4. Not the right benefits
Are the benefits such as flex and remote working, pension rights, maternity leave and day-care support stated upfront, or are they focused on an open Friday bar and company soccer team? If you have to dig deep and come up with dress-down Fridays or an annual picnic, proceed with caution. Research from LinkedIn tells us that 63% say that benefits known as "emotional salary" are vital to persuade women to commit to their organisation.
5. Legal action
Run some basic Google searches:
- Company name + sexual harassment + law suit
- Company name + gender discrimination + legal action
- Company name + MeTOO + legal action
What do you find? A search for "Miramax + harassment + legal action" predictably produced 77000 search results. That is a red flag, plus its very own gender washing pole.
6. Dodgy cyber footprint
Check out the social media pages of the company and some of its employees that you can find in the public domain. You can trace who works for an organisation on their company page on LinkedIn. You can also look on Twitter and Facebook. How do they interact and come across to you? Women are still being bombarded on LinkedIn with sleazy messages.
7. Product marketing
We have all seen commercials for products and our thoughts were "what were they thinking?" Organisations forget that women now influence 85% of all consumer decisions. If organisations seriously want to attract and retain female talent, they will up their game when it comes to their own product branding. Remember the Fearless Girl statue erected by State Street Global Advisors to support women's empowerment? It didn't take long for someone to call out gender washing and that their own track record for promoting women was pretty poor.
So check out their product branding. Is it gender-neutral? Or does it include either scantily clad women, or an inclination to "pink it and shrink it"?
If you pay proper attention and do thorough research you can be very clear if an organisation is committed to gender equality rather than simply checking some public facing boxes.
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Dates for the Diary
23rd January 2020 - How to build an employer brand that attracts and retains women.
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