The gender wage gap has not been closed; women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ employees are still underrepresented in leadership roles; and many workplaces still adhere to outdated policies that can stifle the freedom, creativity, and productivity of a diverse workforce.

In a conversation hosted by the NationSwell Council community, three women leaders in the media industry explored what it means to build a fair, equitable, and just workplace, what steps businesses should be taking to foster inclusiveness and bring equity to the forefront of every decision, and how business leaders should think about their role in advancing gender justice in the workplace.

Here are some of the key learnings from the event.

We must be able to define what it truly means to be a fair and inclusive workspace

Creating such a workplace cannot be achieved if we lack a basic understanding of what the ultimate goal truly is. Fair and inclusive does not stop at merely having a diverse workforce. It’s not enough to simply have women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ employees and leaders. These groups and individuals must also be put in a position where they can be elevated, both in terms of advancement in the workplace and in having their voices and concerns heard and taken seriously.

It starts with diverse hiring

Of course, the first step is to hire more women, more people of color, and more members of the LGBTQ+ community. But that is truly just the first step. Research has shown that bias against women can still persist even in workspaces that are majority women, so issues of inequity will not suddenly disappear when some specific diversity ratio is achieved.

Take stock of your own communications

Companies should look at both their internal and outward facing communications to assess whose voices are usually featured. If, for example, a company’s website is filled with images of mostly white men, this could deter diverse candidates from applying for or accepting a job. Similarly, if internal comms are always led by white cishet men, other employees may feel alienated in the workplace.

Workers should feel comfortable in their own skin

Employees must feel their workplace is a safe space where they are free to be themselves. This includes respecting people’s identity — ie, using a person’s preferred pronouns and name — making sure all employees have equitable access to the health care they require, and making sure that they are not being harassed in any way by colleagues or clients. 

Free and open communication is a must

The culture of a workplace cannot change if people do not feel empowered to address their problems or concerns. One way to foster this type of communication is through employee surveys, but surveys can have issues as well. A survey could be written in a biased manner and can also flatten the experience of individuals by putting employees into groups. So managers must be able to have open and direct communication with individuals so that they can speak about their specific experiences and concerns.

The NationSwell Council community brings together a diverse, curated community of bold individuals and organizations leading the way in social, economic, and environmental problem-solving. Learn more about the Council here.