Why Becoming Gender Neutral Is the Business Challenge of the 21st Century
April 18, 2016
What does it mean to be gender neutral? It is the idea that policies, language, organizations, technology and other social institutions do not distinguish roles according to people’s sex or gender.
Now, imagine a future where organizations and technologies are not just encouraged butexpected to be fully gender neutral in the same way companies now strive to be environmentally sustainable.
Large organizations are working hard to become part of the Circular Economy, not simply because it’s the right thing to do because it will ultimately help the environment and reduce waste, but because it creates more economically efficient and profitable organizations.
It is the exact same with gender neutrality. The truth is gender neutrality has huge ramifications for jobs, productivity, and GDP growth. For example, over 2 trillion dollars could be added to the U.S. economy if the female employment ratio increased by just 10%.
Therefore, I challenge organizations—from tech startups to governments—to realize the deep importance of becoming truly gender neutral. It’s a human rights issue. It’s an economic issue. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.
This is ambitious, yes. But the good news? We are moving in the right direction. Especially with the help of fearless women changing the world one organization at a time, helping to ignite a revolution against the social order we’ve known until today.
Need some more inspiration. Enjoy three encouraging examples of the push towards a more gender-neutral world.
Business can be the most productive mechanism for creating change in the world, and no one knows that better than activist, author, and executive, Sheryl Sandberg—“I look forward to the day when half our homes are run by men and half our companies and institutions are run by women. When that happens, it won’t just mean happier women and families; it will mean more successful businesses and better lives for us all.”
In her book Lean In, Sandberg encourages women to tear down barriers preventing them from taking leadership roles in the workplace, and that only when those barriers are broken will there be more equitable opportunities for everyone. Gender bias is more alive than most of us are willing to admit, which is why now is the time for the female voice to be heard in business.
Though many developed nations have had conversations about the lack of diversity in business roles and government, Sweden has put their promise into practice. Feminism has become a political force in the European country, and gender equality is the number one thing on the agenda. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom is prioritizing women's rights in its foreign policy and has sparked a resurgence in feminism across the country.
Why should other countries follow suit? Because companies with at least 30% of women in leadership roles may boost their net profit margins by about 15%. Despite making up 46% of the U.S. workforce, women contribute just one-fifth of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Promoting women into higher management roles would increase a business’ profit margins and would boost their contribution to the economy.
Feminine care company, Always, is in an epic battle to challenge gender stereotypes and empower girls worldwide with their ongoing #LikeAGirl campaign. In a push towards a more gender neutral world, they ask- what does it mean to do things "like a girl"?Always is encouraging women globally to fight back against labels and categorizations that are holding them back.
With most of the top decision-making positions in corporate America being occupied by men, it’s rare you come across a ground-breaking campaign such as this that is so relatable to women worldwide. Redefining the derogatory phrase “like a girl” teaches women everywhere that being a girl is not something to be ashamed of or a distinguishing factor that holds you back.
Gender neutrality is a goal we must meet in the work environment. Not only does it create a more vibrant, positive, and productive work culture- it drives profitability. I hope these examples and this conversation begins to inspire us to continue to work to create a gender neutral world. The topic is on the table, but businesses must walk the talk to reap the rewards.
What do you think? Do you have an example of an organization driving positive gender neutral change? Share it in the comments!