While it is crucial to have more women at the table, true gender balance goes beyond mere representation. It involves creating an environment where women’s voices are not only present but also actively heard and valued. Achieving real gender balance in decision-making requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the systemic barriers and biases that hinder women’s participation and influence.
Getting a seat at the table.. Is not enough
Increasing the number of women in decision-making roles is undeniably a significant step towards achieving gender balance. When women are present at the table, their unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise can contribute to more well-rounded and inclusive decision-making processes. Diverse voices lead to better outcomes, as research consistently shows, gender-balanced teams tend to make more informed and effective decisions.
However, representation alone is not enough. It is essential to go beyond tokenism and ensure that women are not just passive participants but active contributors in decision-making processes. This requires creating an inclusive environment that values and amplifies women’s voices, allowing them to shape and influence outcomes.
To ensure women’s voices are heard, it is crucial to address the barriers that hinder their participation in decision-making. These barriers can range from societal norms and biases to organisational structures and cultural practices. Most of us are aware but a quick recap on what the most common challenges are, include:
Stereotypes and Bias
Deep-rooted gender stereotypes often undermine women’s credibility and expertise, leading to their ideas being dismissed or undervalued. Overcoming these biases requires challenging societal norms and promoting gender equality at all levels.
Lack of Supportive Networks
Women often face limited access to networks and mentorship opportunities, which are crucial for career advancement and gaining visibility in decision-making circles. Establishing mentorship programs and support networks can help women navigate these challenges and provide them with the necessary guidance and connections.
Balancing professional responsibilities with family and caregiving duties can be particularly challenging for women. Flexible work arrangements, affordable childcare, and supportive policies can help alleviate these burdens and enable women to fully engage in decision-making processes.
Confidence and Self-Advocacy
Women may face self-doubt and a lack of confidence in asserting their opinions and ideas. Encouraging self-advocacy and providing training and development opportunities can empower women to speak up and contribute effectively.
How we can make a difference
How do we amplify women’s voices once women are appointed to decision-making positions?
Here are a few ideas:
Inclusive Decision-Making Processes:
Actively involve women in all stages of decision-making, from agenda-setting to implementation. Encourage diverse perspectives and ensure that women’s contributions are given equal weight.
Active Listening and Respect
Create a culture of active listening, where all participants are encouraged to listen attentively and respect each other’s viewpoints. This includes challenging interruptions, dismissive behaviour, or mansplaining that may undermine women’s contributions.
Mentoring and Sponsorship
Provide ongoing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for women in decision-making roles. This support can help women navigate challenges, build confidence, and amplify their voices.
Training and Development
Offer training programs that focus on communication, negotiation, and leadership skills specifically tailored to women in decision-making roles. This can help them develop the necessary skills to effectively articulate their ideas and influence outcomes.
Accountability and Transparency
Establish mechanisms to hold decision-makers accountable for ensuring gender balance and women’s active participation. Regular reporting and monitoring can help identify and address any biases or barriers that may hinder women’s voices from being heard.
Achieving real gender balance in decision-making goes beyond simply increasing the number of women at the table. It requires creating an inclusive environment where women’s voices are actively heard, valued, and respected. By addressing the barriers that hinder women’s participation and influence, we can ensure that decision-making processes benefit from diverse perspectives and lead to more equitable outcomes. It is only through genuine gender balance that we can truly harness the power of women’s voices and create a more inclusive and just society.
Ratul Ahmed, Treasurer