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A practical guide to closing the gender gap: the WEPs

CSR

11/10/2021

Surveys to identify and combat gender bias to promote true equality in the workplace

You only know what you can measure

“Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured”: Galileo Galilei emphasised the importance of including facts in a structured framework so that they can be properly understood. We can apply this to the various social constructs with due caution: while we can identify an issue through observation and intuition, we must have an objective system in place to measure its impact, understand its characteristics, study countermeasures and assess any improvements. For example, while we as individuals are aware of the existence of this gender gap in our daily lives by simply observing that which is around us, it is a wholly different matter to measure it and introduce structured, measurable remedies. 

Structured frameworks enable a true understanding of problems and their objective measurement: this is why the WEPs were conceived to close the gender gap

Gender bias underlying the gender gap has deep roots in each population’s culture and although it may be easy to identify those of traditions very different to our own, it is more difficult to identify the bias we grew up with and which, to a greater or lesser extent, unconsciously shapes our vision of the world, society and interpersonal relationships. 
Gender bias in the workplace and that inherent in society is closely linked. The concept of a woman and a man in society is echoed in certain professional decisions and our jobs in turn consolidate this bias, where by cognitive bias we mean a defect in the valuation process underlying preconceived opinions, that tend to gain strength as a result of their propagation throughout society. 
How can we close the gender gap? Can we include these biases and their resolution in a structured and measurable system? The WEPs have been designed with these goals in mind.
 

Cognitive bias is a defect in the valuation process underlying preconceived opinions that tend to gain strength in social structures.

The WEPs: seven principles and six practical steps

WEPs stands for Women’s Empowerment Principles, designed specifically to be a practical guide to closing the gender gap. They were conceived by the United Nations’ Global Compact and UN Women (UNIFEM) just over ten years ago (in 2010) and are now more relevant than ever. The sharp focus on sustainability by a large percentage of the population and the shared perception of the problem has meant that the issue of women’s empowerment has also received the proper recognition.
The WEPs project is mostly aimed at the business world to remind both entrepreneurs and workers that “Equality means business”. Eliminating the gender bias means ensuring equal career opportunities and remuneration, and proper professional growth for everyone as well as making a company more attractive and ensuring its long-term market competitiveness. 
 

WEPs: companies have both a stake in and accountability for gender equality and women’s empowerment

The WEPs are based on seven guiding principles which, as we said earlier, enables the issue’s inclusion in a defined and measurable framework. 
First, a company must establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality: the willingness to resolve the issue and to introduce new models, must, therefore, be acknowledged and formalised rather than being generally “desired”. The second principle is to guarantee the fair treatment of all women and men at work, respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination. The third principle covers health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers. Once again, these intentions must be included in a structured and agreed framework rather than left up to the individual as part of a generalised invitation. The fourth principle deals with education and training and professional development for women. The fifth principle covers the implementation of enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women and aims to promote women in business, acknowledge their role in human resources and respect their dignity in all marketing fields. The sixth principle covers the promotion of equality through community leadership and engagement while the last principle is intended to measure and report the progress to achieve the equal treatment of men and women in the workplace. 

Although compliance with the WEPS is completely optional as is any decision about which and how many activities to implement, companies can use the WEPs Gender Gap Analysis Tool for self-assessment purposes while the six-step path (consider - sign - activate - engage - sustain - report) is a real roadmap to keep companies on track along the way. 
 

Eliminating gender bias

The gender gap, i.e., the different treatment and consideration of men and women in the workplace, without venturing into the more complicated world of gender identity in all its facets, hinges on gender bias which shapes personal identity within society. 

Gender bias refers to both men and women but it rewards the former and penalises the latter in society.

It obviously relates to both men (who are expected to comply with certain concepts of masculinity that are often suffocating but rewarding in society) and women (who are expected to conform with concepts of femininity that are just as suffocating but not as socially or personally rewarding and can in fact often be detrimental). 
The most common gender biases concerning women include, for example, their assumed greater inclination to care for others, their lower predisposition to compete in the world of work or for career advancement or a more marked inclination towards the humanities rather than STEM subjects. These three biases, which are often confirmed by the self-fulfilling prophecy mechanism, have an important impact on women’s employment and employability.