Diversity in the workplace is still a rampant issue, especially the lack of women in the labour force. Traditional gender roles dictate that men are the breadwinners of the family unit, while women are typically expected to adhere to domestic or caregiving roles – looking after the children, cooking or cleaning at home.
Although this mindset is slowly changing for the better within Maldivian society, we are nowhere near to bridging the gender gap in the workplace.
In a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it was revealed in the tourism industry alone, only 10% of hospitality employees are women, of which only 3% are local women. The recessionary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have only exacerbated the issue. According to the NBS, more than 26% of women working in the private sector had lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
So, what can companies do to even out the playing field?
1. Offer Greater Flexibility: One of the primary reasons women tend to stay clear of full-time jobs is familial obligations. However, if allowed more flexible work schedules – flexi-time, part-time or casual roles – women would be able to adjust their day around other needs in their lives.
Not only would this make employees feel more valued and in control, but overall labour turnover would decrease as well. According to Werk, an American business that supports workplace flexibility for companies, 70% of women who dropped out of the workplace stated that they would still be working if given more flexible work schedules.
2. Actively Nurture Women in Leadership Roles: Research has shown time and time again that diversity in leadership is good for business. Creating a truly diverse environment means appointing more women in senior positions, actively recognizing women’s achievements and successes, and providing more training and support for them to excel in their careers.
Remember your first role model in business? The first person you looked at, maybe in a magazine or a news article, and said, “THAT is who I aspire to be like.” The same concept applies to younger women looking to join the workforce; having female role models to look up to in the corporate world will definitely motivate them to take the leap and mould their own careers.
3. Foster a Safe Workplace Environment: To promote appropriate workplace behaviour, strong structures and processes need to be put in place within the company. This means zero-tolerance protocols in cases of harassment or unfair treatment, with firm action being taken against perpetrators.
Along with explicit behaviour, implicit or ‘unconscious’ biases need to also be managed. Unconscious biases stem from ingrained cultural conditioning, whereby women are considered less valuable to the workforce due to their commitments to family or other aspects of their lives. Encouraging an open dialogue around these topics can help retain women workers.