Companies want to maximize their assets. Yet traditionally, women’s — especially minority women’s – voices were not heard. So, what steps can they take to address that problem and create a female-empowering corporate culture?
Gain Support from Top Management
Change comes slowly in organizations for many reasons. Individuals become set in their ways. Employees resist change because it takes them out of their comfort zones. Sometimes, employees feel threatened.
Therefore, employees need to be enticed to work differently. They need to be convinced that the change is necessary and will be beneficial to them. Only top executives can make such an argument and foster a cultural shift. They need to do more than simply mouth words and spout lofty ideals. They must personally invest time, money, and effort into the new initiative in order for it to have a chance to succeed.
Inequity can be a touchy subject, one that corporations often avoid discussing. But in order to solve a problem, businesses must state it clearly, so everyone knows what it is. Therefore, organizations must find ways to bring the lack of women and people of color in the workplace to the forefront so that everyone sees and understands why it is a problem in your organization.
Here, actions mean more than words. Enacting a real-life scenario is more powerful and impactful than sending an email to employees. An enterprise could organize a small play or skit highlighting the discrimination women face in the workplace. Employees can then brainstorm to identify ways to address the problem.
Help with Child Care Options
It is a known fact that women are usually the primary caregivers for their children. The availability and cost of childcare, which can often run upwards of $1,000 per month, often create obstacles in their careers as they are forced to choose between their job and their family. Organizations that provide assistance in different forms, such as financial support, time off, and flexible work arrangements, empower their female employees to effectively balance their work and family responsibilities.
Provide a Clear Path
On a positive note, women have been making strides in the workplace. In fact, noteworthy progress is seen at the very top: the percentage of female CEOs more than doubled from about 2% in 2010 to over 5.5% in 2021.
However, other positions, such as CFOs, treasurers, and finance Vice Presidents, have seen much smaller growth among their female rank and file: 47%, 41%, and 56%, respectively. Companies are in business to turn a profit, so much experience is often vital for someone to obtain a C-level position. Corporations could try to recruit and add inducements so more women can fill financial positions and prepare themselves to climb higher on the corporate ladder.
Host Monthly or Quarterly Get Togethers
Organizing regular meetings, say once a quarter, for women in the organization can help improve the culture. Bringing females together during a “women’s chat” offers them a chance to network and get to know each other. The event also provides them with a platform where they discuss any percolating issues, participate in specialized training, and make suggestions about how the company might serve them and operate better.
Solicit Anonymous Feedback
Sometimes, women do not feel comfortable discussing a situation or discussing something troubling them. Firms need to offer them a means to share their views, highlight any issues, and suggest any ideas in a safe manner. Soliciting anonymous feedback is one way to open a communication channel, raise important issues, improve, and address shortcomings.
Provide Flexible Work Schedules
The boundaries between work and family life have blurred through the years with the advent of always-connected technology. Expecting employees to be available 24/7 can lead to stress and burnout as the To Do list becomes longer than the hours in the day. Providing women with a flexible schedule helps them strike a balance among work, family, and personal obligations.
Enact Zero Tolerance Sexual Harassment Policies
Enterprises must ensure they have clear zero-tolerance policies against sexual harassment in the workplace. The first step in the process is contacting a lawyer with experience in this area. Companies need to understand federal and local regulations. In addition, having employees take part in anti-sexual harassment training programs enables the company to establish clear boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Companies also need to establish clear procedures for reporting any incidents. The process must make women feel safe and comfortable, or else they will not take part in it. Care has to be taken so information remains confidential and the predator cannot try to retaliate through intimidation.
Why Create a Female-Friendly Company?
Although all these practices aim to uplift women’s status in the workplace, everyone benefits. Women have unique life and work experiences that translate into a novel and needed leadership characteristics. Female managers often take steps to support their teams by checking on their employees’ well-being. Employees often need that human touch, and such diversity enriches the organization’s management toolbox.
Another plus is that with diverse voices, decision-making becomes more multidimensional and comprehensive. Boards with at least one female member tend to take longer, be more thorough, and eventually reach better decisions than all-male boards.
Furthermore, gender inequity has become a driver of consumer, customer, and shareholder behavior. As evidence, 61% of businesses have been encouraged by their stakeholders to increase gender parity.
Historically, women have encountered resistance in the workplace that muted their voices. Companies are becoming more aware, and many want to be more proactive in addressing the problem. Providing family friendly benefits, increasing communication, and having top management take a key role enable businesses to create gender equal work environments.