A closer look at supporting women in the workplace
Women Appreciation Month (March) is the perfect time for organizations to evaluate how much they actually show appreciation for female employees. While many organizations have taken strides in recognizing women’s sacrifices and triumphs in the workplace, there is still a considerable way to go before companies achieve real equity in the workspace.
Equity is important. It can’t be just a one-and-done gesture, and for the purposes of this blog, we are specifically focusing on women in the workplace. Organizations must continually update their programs, and always reflect upon their actions and progress in support of women in the workplace. When every employee gets the support and recognition they deserve, an organization benefits as a whole.
"Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile."
- McKinsey & Company: Delivering Through Diversity Report, January 2018
Traditionally women have female-specific societal obstacles to navigate in balancing work and home life. When organizations value women’s voices and contributions (and provide them the tools with which to succeed), it results in a work environment where all employees can more easily achieve a healthy work-life balance.
In recognition of Women's Appreciation Month, learn how you can make some lasting changes to better integrate and accommodate women into your workplace with the five steps outlined below.
1. Cultivate an inclusive culture.
So now that you’re taking stock of how much you express your appreciation for your female employees, the question arises: where to start making changes? Before your organization leaps to take action, stop and take stock of your company’s culture. How does your organization want to honor women or recognize Women's Appreciation Month? How many women are represented in your workplace, and across how many levels? Is there as much diversity at the top as at the bottom?
According to the McKinsey/LeanIn.org annual Women In the Workplace survey (the largest study on the subject to date), women are still underrepresented compared to their male peers—and their workplace presence declines with each step up the corporate ladder. McKinsey/LeanIn.org's research finds that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women also receive promotion. Women of color and LGBTQ+ women lose even more ground.
Lack of visibility is partially why gender bias continues to shape corporate life. However, this lack of visibility stems from the fact that for a long time, women were excluded from the workplace due to gender bias. So how can we break this catch-22?
Your organization can do its part by creating a friendly, healthy, and fair workplace, which benefits people of all genders. Take stock of every facet of work-life, not just your recruitment practices. After all, just onboarding new female employees into a hostile environment or advancing current female employees without any support helps no one.
2. Encourage professional development.
Professional development is often stunted at the managerial level for women. Why? It’s certainly not for lack of ambition; rather, it’s a lack of support. One of the best ways to support female employees is by providing mentorship.
“Women are 24% less likely to get advice from senior leaders than men.”
- Leanin.org & McKinsey: Women in the Workplace 2019
Mentorship is critical for any employee to advance, but it’s especially important for the underrepresented employee population. Because they have been historically left out and are less represented, marginalized groups traditionally receive less support in the workplace.
Without many women in senior positions, men must step in and mentor some women. However, they often shy away from doing so, in part on account of changing norms of what is permissible in professional relationships. Although cultural landscapes are changing, leaving many men unsure how to engage with female co-workers. However, men and women must push through the discomfort and communicate in order to create a safe, fair workspace for all employees.
One way your company can ensure healthy conversations about boundaries and gender equity is to strengthen your human resources department. By continuing to educate at every level, organizations can ensure everyone gets a chance at professional growth.
3. Appreciate, recognize, and reward.
Successful organizations want to keep all of their employees engaged. And the best way to do that is to recognize their contributions.
Workers want acknowledgment for their efforts, and to receive credit for their efforts. Often, women feel their accomplishments are overlooked while their male counterparts are celebrated for their efforts.
An easy solution is to prioritize conversations with women about their careers. Schedule frequent evaluations and acknowledge their accomplishments. Show the female workforce extra appreciation by highlighting their contributions in the company newsletter, sending virtual cheers or kudos, or acknowledging their hard work to kick-off a meeting.
No matter the scale, these gestures should continue regularly, not just during Women’s Appreciation Month to make a difference.
4. Implement policies that support work-life balance.
Show appreciation and support for female employees effectively by centering the conversation around equity, not equality. The key to good DEI practices is recognizing that diverse groups have diverse needs.
What does this mean for your organization? Your office needs a benefits plan employees can customize. Many women play the role of primary caregiver, in addition to being breadwinners. Company policies need to take these dual roles into account and implement policies that support work-life balance whenever possible, such as paid leave, flexible hours, and remote work options.
Not only should organizations have these policies, but they must also make clear that there is no penalty for using them.
“34% of women with children under the age of 18 are “very concerned” that taking advantage of paid leave, flex-time, or work from home arrangements might prevent them from achieving their career goals.”
- CNBC & SurveyMonkey: Inaugural Women at Work Survey 2020
Staff should not be afraid to take advantage of these benefits—they should be encouraged to live a full, happy life!
5. Increase women's visibility.
According to a Stanford University study, female participants claimed that while they were aware of the importance of visibility, they often intentionally chose to stay out of the spotlight.
Here are a few of the reasons some respondents provided as to why:
- First, they wanted to avoid backlash, because prior self-promotion attempts were viewed negatively by male corporate leaders.
- They also reported feeling inauthentic when self-promoting.
- In addition, staying out of the limelight allowed some women a more even work-life balance.
In addition to women, it's imperative for companies to take steps to amplify ALL of their employees' voices. According to Deloitte, inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to innovate and more likely to exceed financial targets.
Although we have a long way to go, occasions like Women Appreciation Month and International Women’s Day are dedicated markers in advancing the push for gender equity.
How Forma (formerly Twic) can impact your organization
The success of any company depends on the success of its employees. As the landscape of work diversifies, companies must adapt their equity and inclusivity standards accordingly. Aside from observing occasions like Women's Appreciation Month and other small acknowledgments, companies must enact intentional, meaningful policies.
Dynamic companies must offer a benefits program that suits the diverse needs of their employees to remain competitive in a modern workforce.
Forma can help you build a benefits package that benefits staff, rather than a traditional one-size-fits-all package. Boost employees’ engagement and help show them they're appreciated with personalized benefits.
Book a demo session today to learn about Forma can adapt your workplace to meet the demands of a changing world.