8 Ways You Can Support Women in Your Workplace
Over 30 years ago, the U.S. Congress declared March Women’s History Month. Since then, conversations around gender-based inequalities have increased and countless initiatives have been established to improve the situation across sectors and industries. More recently, we’re seeing a growing spotlight on disparities in the workplace. Whether we’re talking about pay, advancement opportunities, or work cultures that breed harassment, it’s clear that there is work to be done.
As part of Women’s History Month we’ve put together a list of ways you can empower women in your organization. While the list below is by no means exhaustive, these 8 points form a good foundation for making sure that your organization’s culture is truly diverse and inclusive.
1. Don’t factor personal life into professional decisions
Factors of the personal lives of women (and all employees) have no place in professional decisions. Differences of personal opinion that do not affect the actual work being done should not be taken into account. Make sure that decisions surrounding positive or negative recognition are based clearly and openly on professional merit alone.
2. Create a flexible work environment
A flexible work environment can increase employee happiness and productivity. It should not matter if an employee has a child and would prefer to work from home a few days a week or if she is single and prefers to work long nights at the office, as long as the work gets done. A flexible work environment enables your employees to build the lives and careers they want while feeling as if their employer truly prioritizes their overall happiness.
3. Empower women in senior roles to serve as role models
According to the 2017 Women in the Workplace report, employees who receive mentorship and advice from senior leaders in their company are more likely to receive promotions. Unfortunately, women are less likely to receive such advice, thereby decreasing their potential. Companies can make a notable difference by providing all employees equal access to mentorship. More importantly, companies should specifically empower women in senior roles to serve as role models for women in more junior positions.
4. Engage in organization-wide training to counter unconscious bias
Perspectives on whether a company is fulfilling its gender diversity goals vary across age groups and genders. Almost 50% of men from McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study believe that women are well-represented in leadership, and while the number is smaller, a significant number of women agree. Countering these perspectives is not something that can be done overnight. They come from generations of socialization and unconscious bias that pervade our everyday interactions. Company-wide trainings and workshops to counter these can be very helpful.
5. Recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach never works
There is a ton of data that demonstrates that women of color are often left behind in most current initiatives for gender diversity. And Black women fare worse than all other groups. Often D&I initiatives do not consider the particular challenges and hurdles faced by women of color in the workplace. We must recognize this and ensure that our initiatives take into account the unconscious and conscious biases that exist across gender AND race. Until we do, we cannot truly make our workplaces equitable.
6. Encourage networking and participation in associations outside of work
Successful organizations encourage their employees to seek professional development outside of the everyday workplace. These programs and policies help demonstrate that the organization truly supports the overall growth and career path of their employees, rather than focusing solely on the completion of work duties.To support women in the workplace, organizations should encourage employees to network and participate in associations outside of work, particularly those that specifically serve women. This encouragement happens not just by telling women they can or should do this, but also giving them the time and financial support to do so.
7. Figure out how to get genuine and enthusiastic buy-in from men at your organization
Men often see workplaces as more equitable than women do, or than they truly are. Additionally, reports show that some men worry that gender diversity efforts can disadvantage them. Thus, they are less likely to be vocally supportive of such efforts. Getting genuine and enthusiastic buy-in from men within your organization is important to ensuring your workplace culture is truly inclusive. In order for the gap to decrease, all employees, at all levels, must be committed to bridging the diversity and inclusion gap. Formal policies don’t always trickle down to informal interactions that dictate so much of the environment and culture at work.
8. Have an absolute no-tolerance policy for harassment, and stick to it
At this point, all companies are expected to have anti-harassment policies and procedures. These should be written clearly, easily accessible by all employees, and included in company-wide messaging whenever appropriate. Your employees should trust that your policies will protect them from harassment, and that if such harassment does occur, there are procedures in place that allow them to report the incident safely and with the knowledge that appropriate action will be taken.
In order for women to be supported and empowered in the workplace, organizations must have the right policies and culture in place. What other ways can we support women in the workplace?