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How equity can help promote gender equality in the workplace

This article will explore what equity is, why it matters, and how it fits within the wider Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy. It will also recommend how both working professionals and companies can encourage more equitable behavior through behavioral change, education, and gender specific initiatives.

Is it important to recognize that many of the issues discussed do not only impact women in the workplace, but they also impact many other marginalized groups (such as: people living with disabilities; people of color; those facing socio-economic barriers; and members of LGBTQIA+ community). Although the data referenced is specific to cisgender women and cisgender men, it is vital that more inclusive data (including all members of the LGBTQIA+ community) is collated to encourage systemic change in future.

Underrepresentation of women in the workplace

Take a moment to look around you. Statistically, only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of colour.1 How many do you see?

Although there have been positive changes in recent years to encourage improvement in these statistics, there is work still to be done. This is particularly true in technical and engineering roles, where women remain deeply underrepresented. Women’s relative representation in technical roles has declined from 18% in 2018 to 16% in 2022 2 and 32% of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room at work.3

Gender equality is an important moral initiative and is a vital enabler in companies being successful. Inclusive companies are 1.7x more likely to be innovation leaders in their market and businesses with more inclusive and diverse cultures achieve 2.2x higher sales and 3.2x higher profits.4

When looking at equality in the workplace, it is necessary to consider the positive impact that equity can have on equal gender representation and female talent retention. Equity can formally be defined as: “the outcome of diversity, inclusion, and anti-oppression actions wherein all people have fair access, opportunity, resources, and power to thrive, with consideration for and elimination of historical and systemic barriers and privileges that cause oppression” 5 - but what we’re really saying is that different people need different support to succeed. Equality assumes everyone gets the same, equity assumes everyone gets what they need.

By promoting gender equity within the workplace, this enables everyone to get to the same place and gender equality targets to be met.

The ambition of equity is to work towards changing systemic barriers that inhibit these individuals’ ability to reach the same goals as their peers.

The impacts of inequity on women

Lack of female representation in the workforce can be split into two key issue areas: lack of female talent being attracted/successful in the application process and failure to retain female talent once employed.

Research has shown that women spend more time doing unpaid care work than men. On average, women spend 4hr25mins a day performing unpaid care work, versus men who spend on average 1hr23mins. 6 This can negatively impact the working lives of women in several ways. Including less time for women to attend work networking events, do job applications, work additional hours, and focus time on career development - all of which can hinder career progression.

Research has also found that, on average, women do not apply for a job unless they meet 100% of the qualifications, versus men who will apply meeting only 60%. 7 If the hiring process is not altered to reflect this disparity, the outcome of the recruitment process will not change. By advocating for women and encouraging them to apply for jobs in which they have the capabilities, individuals can help reduce this disparity. However, companies must also address these known issues.

Furthermore, when women do enter the workforce, they may require different resources from their male colleagues. These basic human resources such as female friendly facilities and period products on site are not always available. 8 Lack of female friendly facilities are even more prevalent on construction and manufacturing sites where facilities have lack of privacy or may not be available at all. 9 If a person who menstruates must leave the site every time they require a bathroom, or also leave the office when their period begins, they will be losing valuable working time and will not be able to contribute to their success at the same rate as their counterpart.

How to enable equity in your work life

One way that individuals can create a working environment that provides them with all the resources and support they require is to simply ask for what they need. Although companies should take responsibility for promoting equity on behalf of women, it is important to address resource and support gaps you experience to enable your own potential to be met.

An example of a choice that a woman might make is choosing flexible and hybrid work or advocating for increased flexibility of work. Many women view remote/hybrid work options as crucial factors in staying with a company, due to varying benefits around childcare, improved health, wellness, and productivity that might come with a more flexible daily schedule and work/life balance.

Another example of something each of us can do to support professional development is to identify a mentor, sponsor, and coach. Having good role models and advocates both internally and externally is crucial in helping you see and achieve your potential as you progress in your career.

How employers can promote equity

By educating all employees on the topic of equity, employers can create an open dialogue that enables underrepresented communities to speak up and ask for what they need. Education might take the form of workshops, webinars, or training on equity and how this differs amongst different intersectional identities.

Change can be achieved when companies implement leading and emerging practices into their workplaces, which go beyond the most basic level of HR DEI practices. Some impactful initiatives implemented recently include annual leave for issues such as menopause, periods, and miscarriages. Is it vital that any policies or initiatives introduced in the workplace are trans-inclusive. This means that no impacted individual must use sick leave in these situations or explain why they are unable to attend meetings.

Under current UK law, employees who are unable to work due to severe period pain or other period related symptoms are generally required to take sick leave. However, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is not payable for the first 3 days of absence and therefore people facing socio-economic barriers will not have access to taking this time off. People who menstruate that take time off may hit sickness absence triggers more quickly, putting their contract in jeopardy.

Although progressive steps have been taken towards gender equity, changes need to be systemic and impact all women in all industries across the globe.

Key takeaways to promote equity in the workplace

It is vital to consider the role of equity in meeting gender equality and female representation targets in the workplace. By equipping women with the tools that they need, they are more likely to be successful in the application processes of jobs and to excel and progress when landed in a role.

Although systemic change cannot happen overnight, companies can drive change towards equity by introducing impactful initiatives that enable women to fulfill their potential. It is also vital that individuals are given an environment to work in in which they are confident enough to request the resources and support they require to succeed. With both efforts intertwined, progress can be made towards creating a more equitable workplace for all.

If you are interested in learning more about DE&I topics such as privilege, bias and allyship there is a separate blog post here that covers these topics. We encourage you to challenge yourself to consider how you can promote equity within your workplace for all underrepresented and marginalized communities.

Women at the Wheel

Women at the Wheel is a Deloitte community, headed by Sarah Noble, that is committed to driving gender diversity, equity, and inclusion in the next generation of automotive industry leaders. Women at the Wheel creates active allies within the automotive industry and educates its members on the different challenges that intersections of women face in the workplace. If you are interested in joining the community, please sign up via this link to receive the monthly newsletter and be notified of upcoming events.

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4 Jaguar Land Rover. (2023). Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity and Inclusion | JLR Corporate Website. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

5Part III: Act now – the equity imperative. Deloitte United States. (2021, February). Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

6 Dhar, D. (2020, January 14). Women's unpaid care work has been unmeasured and undervalued for too long. King's College London. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from

7 Mohr, T. S. (2021, November 2). Why Women Don't Apply for Jobs Unless They're 100% Qualified. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

8 GOV.UK. (2022, August 2). Toilet provision for men and women: Call for evidence. GOV.UK. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from

9 CBC/Radio Canada. (2023, March 16). Ontario plans to require women-only bathrooms on large construction sites. CBC News. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from