Integrating Gender into Workplace Policies

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This guide supports companies, organizations, and government agencies to create and implement policies that improve gender equality in the workplace.

Women represent half of the world’s employment potential; effectively developing this talent will increase an organization’s competitive advantage. A growing body of evidence demonstrates a correlation between gender diversity at the executive level and company performance. A recent study by McKinsey analyzed more than 1,000 companies in 12 countries and concluded that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their national industry average in terms of profitability.

Despite the evidence demonstrating women’s value in the workforce, women continue to encounter structural barriers to participating in the world economy, particularly in industries traditionally dominated by men.

Integrating Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policies

Gender, social inclusion, and diversity policies are important organizational building blocks that create an enabling environment for equality, enable organizations to set and track progress towards goals, and support organizations to develop a business case for gender equality. When effective, gender equality, diversity, and inclusion policies set the tone of an organization, demonstrate leadership commitment, and enable organizations to achieve gender equality.

Through its Engendering Industries program, USAID created a practical guide to help human resource (HR) professionals, diversity and inclusion officers, and senior leadership to create tailored policies that address the specific gender equality needs of their organization.

This guide provides the “dos” and “don’ts”, policy language recommendations, and resources for various types of HR policies:

  1. Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Policy
  2. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy
  3. Review all Company Policies with a Gender Lens
  4. Salary and Benefit Equity Policy
  5. Parental Leave (with Maternity Leave) Policy
  6. Parental Leave (with Paternity Leave) Policy
  7. Family Leave Policy
  8. Policies that Reconcile Work-Life and Family-Life for Women and Men
  9. Childcare Benefits Policy
  10. Sexual Harassment and Workplace Gender-Based Violence Policy
  11. Workplace Policy to Prevent and Respond to Domestic Violence
  12. Anti-Discrimination Policy
  13. Grievance and Complaints Mechanism
  14. Menstrual Health Management (MHM) Policy
  15. Health and Safety Policy
  16. Attraction and Talent Outreach Policy
  17. Performance Management Policy
  18. Recruiting and Hiring Policy
  19. Succession Planning and Promotion Policy
  20. Talent and Leadership Development Policy

While creating a gender equality policy is an important step, it should be noted that all HR policies should be created and reviewed with a gender lens to ensure gender equality across the organization. Engaging a gender equality expert while using this guide will support the creation of effective policies that increase gender equality.

This guide complements the information and resources provided in Delivering Gender Equality: A Best Practices Framework for Male-Dominated Industries, a USAID resource that helps organizations establish a roadmap for sustained progress in integrating gender equity throughout operations and corporate structures.

Tips for Policy Implementation

To build a more inclusive workforce, diverse voices must be involved in drafting policies. HR policies should be created with input from people in multiple departments at various levels, ensuring that women and decision makers with diverse social identities are included. The policy should have buy-in at all levels, especially senior leadership to ensure there is commitment to implement the policy and adopt it at the board level.

Once the policy is in place, there must be a strong and ongoing dissemination and socialization plan to explain why the policy is needed and how it will benefit all staff as well as the organization as a whole. Staff will need to be trained on the policy and related topics (i.e., unconscious bias), particularly managers and senior leaders who are responsible for modeling and enforcing policies. The communications and HR departments play an important role in sharing success stories to help staff understand and support the policies, introducing policies in the onboarding process, and ensuring all staff can easily access and review the policies. An organization can survey employees to assess understanding of the policies and whether they are being followed or used appropriately.

Lasting improvements will be made if there is an enabling environment for accountability and follow-through. There must be an action plan with clear and measurable time-bound targets to support the implementation of the policy. A specific department should be responsible for implementing the policy, monitoring progress toward actionable targets with sex-disaggregated data, and reviewing the policy on a periodic basis to assess if changes are needed. There should also be key performance indicators for managers’ successful implementation of the policy to ensure senior leadership is accountable.