How to Encourage Women in the Workplace
Popular companies like Uber, Tesla, and others have been taking a hit in the news the last few weeks due to lawsuits for sexual harassment by female employees and the overall negative and discriminatory environment these businesses have created for women.
According to the Center for American Progress, women make up over half of the population in the United States and earn over 60% of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, yet still make up “only 25 percent of executive- and senior-level officials and managers, hold only 20 percent of board seats, and are only 6 percent of CEOs” in S&P 500 companies. How do you make sure that your business is part of the solution and not the problem? Focus on making the following improvements.
Paid Family Leave
In 40% of all families with children, the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner these days, but the United States is pretty much the only developed nation that does not mandate any paid family leave. If you check out this chart put together by the Pew Research Center, you’ll see that other countries such as Estonia and Japan offer more than a year of paid leave for new parents.
While numerous studies have been done on paid family leave, with the results supporting many reasons why it is necessary for a healthy society and economy, the U.S.A. remains behind the times. Even though the legislature has failed to provide workers with this crucial support by law, your business can, and should, do it anyway!
Paid family leave doesn’t just give much needed financial support to new mothers and fathers, but also provides a cushion for when other caregiving issues pop up, like an aging parent or a sick child. Life can get in the way sometimes, and your employees, especially the women who are still overwhelmingly the main caregivers at home, shouldn’t have to fear for their livelihood or risk losing their job because of it.
Equal Pay Policies
According to the Pew Research Center, “among women across all races and ethnicities, hourly earnings lag behind those of white men and men in their own racial or ethnic group.” Still, in 2017, women make just 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, and it is even worse for women of color. So how can you make sure that you are paying the women in your company equally for equal work?
Start by eliminating the question of how much job candidates were paid by their previous employer in job interviews. This may sound like a reasonable thing to ask on the surface, but it really just perpetuates past pay discrimination. Focus on offering fair pay based on what the job requires and the qualifications and experience of the candidate. It will naturally even things out.
Additionally, allow your employees to freely discuss their salaries and bonuses in the office. This will bring to light any discrimination that may have happened accidentally and will encourage employees to bring it to your attention.
The Rockefeller Foundation did some research regarding advancement opportunities for women in the workplace and found that “one-quarter of Americans (24%) say there are no women in leadership positions at all within their companies, and only one-third (34%) say their workplace puts a high priority in having women in leadership positions.” So, it’s no wonder that just 38% of women feel that they have the opportunity to advance into leadership positions at work.
Make sure that your business is supporting women in advancing their careers, whether it is through mentorship programs, tuition reimbursement for additional education, paid certification programs, or actively encouraging them to apply for promotions.
Representation is crucial to changing the culture. If you work at a company that doesn’t have any women on the board or in leadership roles, it will make you feel that the business doesn’t value your expertise or input. So why bother? Companies need to change their culture to improve this inequality, and your business can do it, too.
Flexible scheduling is important for all workers, but it is incredibly important for parents, and particularly working mothers. If you are the main breadwinner and the main caregiver in your family (as many women are), you need to be able to shift things around so that everything can get accomplished. Allowing flexible scheduling at your company helps women (and men) who are parents balance the necessary responsibilities of supporting their children and supporting your business.
For single, working parents, this concept is even more important. No one should have to fear losing their job because their child is sick and needs to go to the doctor, but they can only get an appointment at 11 o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday. They also should be able to head out early on a Friday to go to their kid’s soccer game. Why? Because well cared-for, supported kids grow up to be self-sufficient, compassionate, successful adults.
By allowing flexible scheduling, you aren’t just supporting the women (and men) in your company, you are making an investment in the next generation who will eventually be your employees, too!
Remote Working Capabilities
Much like flexible scheduling, remote working capabilities offer major stress-relief to working parents. If someone’s child falls ill, and there is no one else available to stay home and care for them, your employee will have to take a day or two off to do so. However, if you offer remote working capabilities such as a paperless, cloud-based filing system like Box, office messaging apps like Slack, and project management apps like Trello, even though they may not be able to come into the office, they can still get some work done so no one falls behind!
Additionally, this allows women who may have to live in more affordable areas that give them a longer commute to have financial and emotional relief a couple of days a week from that commute. This feeds into improved employee happiness and greater productivity for your business.
Financial Planning Assistance
Money is power, and women have a long way to go before they are equal to their male counterparts on this ground. Even though the gender wage gap is closing, and women are making advances in personal finance, women are way behind men when it comes to retirement savings.
The Huffington Post stated in an article on the subject that “on average, men’s retirement account balances are more than 50 percent higher than women’s. The gender retirement gap is further compounded by the fact that women tend to live an estimated five to six years longer than men.” Former CEO of Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and Citi Wealth Management, and founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck, said in an interview with Vogue that “women tend to put their money in the bank and not invest as men do…That will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lives…the best career advice that women don’t get…is to invest.”
Your business can help right this wrong by helping your female employees get access to a Certified Financial Planner® who can help educate them about investing, saving, and creating a financial plan that is tailored to their needs and expectations. This move can also help alleviate any anxiousness surrounding investing, and encourage them to make decisions that will positively impact their financial future.
Women have struggled for all of time to be treated equally in life, and especially in the workplace. While the ugly truths of the rampant sexism that still plagues America’s businesses are now publicly rearing their heads, it has shed light on a problem that has long needed fixing. No matter how big or small your company is, take action to make sure that your business seeks to solve this problem, not compound it. In the long run, it won’t just benefit the women who work for you, but your business, as well.
Abby Yetter is the CEO and Chief Consultant of Bright Ideas Small Business Solutions, LLC. She is a driven, enthusiastic businesswoman, with a talent for organizing the chaotic, and branding the unfamed. Abby strives to use her creativity, and experience, to solve the many problems of small businesses. With a background based in customer service management, social media, technological organization, sales, marketing, and customer experience specialties, she enjoys taking everyday complications, and finding the newest, most productive ways to execute the tasks.All stories by: Abby Yetter