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Alexandra McGroarty on Why We Still Need to Reduce Workforce Gender Bias This Women’s History Month

Every year in March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to spotlight the women who have made the world a better place through their inspiring work and activism. From Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman to Susan B. Anthony and Malala Yousafzai, women — particularly those from marginalized communities — have been at the frontlines of injustice and fought tirelessly to build a fairer, more inclusive society for future generations. 

But while Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, it’s also a chance to take stock and look at just how far we still have to go. “Women may have made strides in improving workplace diversity and equality over the past few decades, but we are still witnessing shortcomings every day,” says Alexandra McGroarty, human resources consultant, certified diversity professional, and author of “Bridging The Gap: Reducing Gender Bias in the Workplace.” 

Having spent years consulting across the world — throughout North America, South America, EMEA, India, Malaysia, Australia, and APAC — McGroarty works to implement engagement, retention, and diversity measures that focus on the employee lifecycle, from talent acquisition to the professional and personal development of colleagues. “In our current era for the workplace, my firm, McGroarty & Co., prioritizes female ingenuity and contribution.” 

Bridging the gap

We’ve come a long way since women were first allowed to enter the workforce. And thanks to laws like the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, women theoretically can participate in the workforce without having to compromise other aspects of their lives, like having children and raising a family. “But we still have a long way to go,” McGroarty says.

In 2015, a fact sheet by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggested that women wouldn’t have equal pay until 2059. In 2020, the United Nations said 250 years was needed to bridge the pay gap. 

“The gap is still very much apparent,” adds McGroarty. “This year, Equal Pay Day fell on March 14, which represents the average amount of extra time a woman would have to spend working full-time than the average man to earn what he did the year prior.” The most recent annual report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that, in 2022, women earned less than men for full-time weekly work in almost all occupations. “Pay is one of the foundational, tangible measures for equality in the workplace,” McGroarty explains, “but it also extends far beyond this.

Workplace bias

“Gender bias in the workplace manifests in numerous different ways,” McGroarty explains. This can include denying a woman a promotion because they have recently had a baby, paying women less, sexist language, and disciplinary procedures over workplace conduct. “Bias is especially hard to tackle because it’s implicit and motivated by prejudice, and in many cases is unconscious, but that’s exactly why it needs eradicating,” she adds. 

It’s also the reason why women are often passed up on leadership opportunities. Black women, for example, face even greater barriers due to racial unconscious bias. 

“It’s telling that only 4.4% of Black women are in management positions, while the pay gap is even greater,” McGroarty says. “While the number of women in senior leadership positions has grown in the last five years, women are still underrepresented at every level of corporate America,” McGroarty recently told LA Weekly. “In my work, it is not only a passion of mine, but a mission to help empower women in the workplace.”

In her book, “Bridging The Gap: Reducing Gender Bias in the Workplace,McGroarty outlines how our unconscious biases impact how we build our workplaces. It also reflects on the bias we impart on others, and how the pandemic shaped the way we view women in the workforce. 

“Workplaces need to acknowledge how drastically the pandemic affected women in the working world,” says McGroarty. “Nearly 70% of women who experienced disruptions in the pandemic said they were concerned it may limit their career growth. We can’t promise more flexible work setups, only to punish women for it.”

A better future

So, what is the solution to the centuries-long fight for true equality, and how can workplaces take conscious steps to tackle gender bias? “Diversity, equity, and inclusion need to be more than just a buzz phrase in the workplace,” McGroarty explains. “Workplaces need to bring in experts who can first conduct a full review, and then curate steps for businesses to implement.” 

According to McGroarty, DEI goals — such as diversifying hiring teams, investing in women’s professional development, committing to pay equity, and training women for leadership positions — need to be specific, measurable, and long-term. “Only by outlining what women face both at home and at work can we form a new path that will help to reduce gender bias, whether you’re in a position of leadership, or simply looking to improve your understanding of the topic and tackle your own bias,” McGroarty says.

“International Women’s Month is a great opportunity to both celebrate trailblazing women and reinvigorate the conversation about where we need to be,” McGroarty says. “But it needs to continue well after the month of March. Workplace equality will become a reality for us, but only if we commit to change long after the special offers and headlines die down.” 

— Alexandra McGroarty is a human resources consultant, certified diversity professional, and author of “Bridging The Gap: Reducing Gender Bias in the Workplace.

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