Companies now generally recognize the importance of empowering women in the workplace. Firms that offer equality not only have the highest revenues but also tend to be the most innovative as well.
Moving the needle, though, isn’t always easy. Companies' cultures can sometimes make it challenging for women to advance and get to the pay grade warranted by the quality of their work.
In this article, we take a look at some of the policies that senior leaders at top firms are now using to empower women and ensure that they can reach their potential.
1. Promoting Blindly
There’s a worry in many business circles that leaders aren’t promoting women because of their gender. That’s leading to a trend where promotions occur blindly. Those responsible for hiring don’t know any of the personal characteristics of the candidate under consideration. The hope is that this will eliminate biases and allow them to make decisions based solely on the facts of the matter.
The reasons for this are clear. According to multiple studies, Fortune 500 companies who have more than three women on their board tend to outperform those that don’t. Returns are substantial, with 53 percent greater increases in equity values over time.
2. Insisting On Equal Pay
Women tend to earn less money than men. While there are many reasons for this, companies are trying to eliminate differences at the HR level. They’re ensuring that women get the same level of pay as men for equal roles and positions.
Firms are finding that this strategy actually works in their favor. When women earn the same as men, it improves morale and reduces staff turnover. It can also improve company culture and team output.
3. Offering Enhanced Professional Development And Training
Firms are also looking for ways to empower women on the professional development front as well. The goal is to develop worker’s skills so that they can become more competitive in the global marketplace.
Companies are doing this in all sorts of ways. Some are organizing training weeks where women staff focus on developing their talents and progressing. Many are using laptop rental services to provide their employees with the tools they need to follow various programs, sometimes from home.
Firms are also bringing in specialist speakers and organizing e-learning courses to fill dead time, often on a Friday afternoon or in the mornings before the main activity of the day begins. Slotting in the odd bit of training here and there can really help women’s prospects and make better use of their time.
4. Granting More Generous Parental Leave
For society to continue into the future, women need to have children, and firms must be sensitive to this reality. That’s why some brands are offering increasingly generous parental leave. They recognize the value that child rearing brings to the world, and that it is a necessary part of life: a non-negotiable.
That’s not to say that all women should have children. It is just that employers need to make it a viable choice that doesn’t entail severe economic consequences on the downside.
Firms are offering generous shared parental leave for both parents, sometimes allowing them to take upwards of a month off work, bringing in temporary staff to fill the gap.
5. Setting Gender Diversity Goals
In the past, companies focused exclusively on business goals. Now, though, they are increasingly taking gender diversity metrics into consideration.
Collecting these metrics help businesses see where they currently stand on the matter. They can observe their male to female ratios and ask whether they represent the luck of the draw, or something more systematic.
Fifty-fifty might be ideal in some industries. However, it depends on the rate at which women enter these sectors.
Once you have gender statistics in hand, ask your team if there are any changes your company can make to attract more women. Listen closely to what employees say. Often, they’ll provide insights that you simply can’t get from eye-balling the statistics.
Even if their comments sound basic, take them to heart. Often, the most obvious reasons for lack of women's participation are the most pertinent.
Setting goals won’t magically eliminate all of the gender diversity issues in your organization. You’ll still need to work every day to attain them. However, it is a starting point – and one that many firms find helpful.
6. Giving Space For Women's Voices
Many firms are deliberately championing women's voices. They’re amplifying them whenever they can, spearheading their ideas.
For many women, this is creating networking opportunities. When senior management promotes their ideas internally and externally, it makes it easier for them to get their voices heard.
7. Accepting That There Is Still A Lot Of Work To Be Done
Companies actively seeking to empower women in the workplace accept that there is still a lot that needs to be done. While there has been substantial progress, it is not enough. Reports from top management consulting firms reveal that women continue to face challenges in the workplace.
For instance, around half of all women in the workforce are still concerned about the impact of having children on their careers. Around a third also believe that their gender or racial background is a headwind for their success. And around two-thirds of women who receive promotions have to negotiate for it. They don’t get it automatically.
Top firms, therefore, repeatedly point out that there is still a lot of work to be done on workplace inequality. High level meetings regularly discuss this point, ensuring that everyone from the top on down understands that it is an ongoing issue, not something that’s been solved. This way, they create a culture for change. Everyone in the organization has permission to get on board and do their bit for women.
Firms are looking for ways to empower women on their teams. They know that by doing so, they can increase productivity and competitiveness in the marketplace.
However, achieving their lofty gender diversity goals is more challenging than many appreciate. It’s not just a matter of putting a few policies in place and hoping for the best. Instead, it requires a systematic re-imagining of business.
Women need support, training and more parental leave. They also need firms that are sympathetic to the fact that a lot of work still needs doing. The companies that succeed in this area will be those that change both their policies and their culture. And once a critical mass of firms do it, everyone else will follow.
Establishing goals is only a part of the story. While it is important to have gender diversity objectives, what really matters for women employees is their individual experience of working with you. If they feel empowered, they will want to stay. If they don’t, then the likelihood of them leaving increases.
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