In the realm of women in the workplace, the latest update from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, reveals a notable milestone. Approximately 68.6% of the gender gap has been closed, effectively bringing us back to pre-pandemic levels.
But is it enough? Things are surely changing, albeit too slowly. And if this pace persists, it will take another 131 years to achieve gender parity.
As Saadia Zhaidi, the forum’s managing director, says, “We are facing a cost-of-living crisis and labor market disruptions. For an economic rebound, companies require the full power of creativity and diverse ideas. We cannot afford to lose momentum on women’s economic participation and opportunity.”
Whether through the representation of ideas or equal earnings (probably both!), it’s high time you start taking ‘diversity and inclusion’ seriously – because if you don’t, you’ll be left behind.
Why do we say so? By 2030, 75% of the workforce will comprise millennials and Gen Zs, which are said to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generations in history.
This no doubt contributes to higher standards and expectations among these up-and-coming job seekers for workplaces to reflect not only their values but also the diversity amongst their colleagues.
So, should it not be your responsibility (or, let’s say, your goal) to meet these expectations and present yourself as an “employer of choice?”
However, if you are still unsure about what exactly you can do to create a female-friendly workplace, here are five tips for you.
Recognize gender bias at all levels
First thing first: You can’t deal with any workplace issue till you recognize its existence, and that too at various levels and forms.
So, your priority must be to acknowledge gender biases (overt or subtle) that may have manifested in your hiring practices, promotions, pay scales, and day-to-day interactions all along.
Start by analyzing your past hiring data to see if there is a significant gender imbalance in certain roles and departments.
Look for patterns that indicate a preference for one gender over another during the hiring process. This could be reflected in the ratio of male to female candidates shortlisted, interviewed, and ultimately hired.
Then, review performance evaluations of at least the last five years to ensure they are conducted fairly and not influenced by unconscious bias.
Assess whether certain genders consistently receive higher ratings, promotions, or growth opportunities, while others are overlooked or undervalued.
The next crucial area to focus on is pay gaps. Double-check if your employee’s compensation is based on their skills or gender.
If you notice any irregularities (that you may actually!), foster open and honest conversation with your team.
Remember, before you officially implement any policy changes, they must know and be on board with your plan to create an inclusive environment.
As Destiny Lalane, recruitment consultant & comedian, says, “Winning to me is when HR managers, new employees, and CEO rally together to continue challenging and improving recruiting for the company.”
Show your employees/team your seriousness about empowering women in the workplace by talking about and taking action for revamping outdated processes. (Start slow, go full speed!)
Update your diversity and inclusion policies
So, you already dropped the hints and announced your goals. Now is the time to get your paperwork in order. And one of the most effective ways to do so is by officially updating and strengthening your diversity and inclusion policies.
These policies will serve as a guiding framework for every employee/executive in your company to support and contribute to creating an equitable workplace.
You can start by hosting a little feedback session where every employee addresses the discriminatory practices they have noticed or personally encountered lately.
Then, sit with your HR members or other stakeholders to devise solutions to mitigate those issues. Research what other companies are doing and analyze whether it can work for you too.
And just for the ideas, here are some strategies you must consider implementing:
- Establish a transparent and fair pay policy that ensures equal pay for equal work, irrespective of gender. Conduct regular pay audits to identify and rectify any pay disparities.
- Ensure that your company’s communication, including job descriptions and employee handbooks, uses gender-neutral language that does not perpetuate stereotypes.
- Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, flexible hours, or job-sharing options, to accommodate the diverse needs of employees, particularly working mothers.
- Provide family-friendly benefits, including parental leave, childcare support, and nursing facilities, to support working parents and caregivers.
- Make it easy for women to restart work after maternity leave. Show them you care.
- Offer leadership training that emphasizes inclusivity, empathy, and the value of diverse perspectives. Encourage male leaders to be champions of gender equality.
- Establish a system to track progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives and hold leaders accountable for meeting diversity goals.
- Strengthen anti-discrimination policies that protect employees from harassment or bias based on gender or any other protected characteristic.
Don’t stick with just these. Come up with a better plan. After all, it’s your company; only you can tell what’s the best!
Once decided, draft and share the new rules within your company and beyond! Go ahead and even publish it on your website and social media platform. (Let every candidate know they can choose you!)
However, ensure that these new policies are not just superficial statements but have measurable goals and actionable steps to empower the representation of women in leadership positions and different departments.
Most importantly, keep revisiting and reassessing their effectiveness now and then. And be willing to make necessary adjustments as and whenever needed.
Provide gender sensitivity training
Gender sensitivity training, also known as gender equity training, is a type of educational program designed to raise awareness and promote understanding of gender-related issues in the workplace and society at large.
The primary objectives of these trainings are (but not limited to):
- Challenging gender stereotypes
- Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Empowering employees, irrespective of their gender and sex
If you wish to (as you should!) launch a successful gender sensitivity training at your company, start by identifying areas where your employees may benefit from it.
Then, define what you hope to achieve through this program. Is it empowering women in the workplace? Improve overall communication? Clearly outline your goal.
Finally, collaborate with experts or professional trainers to facilitate well-structured and effective training sessions.
Also, make sure you decide on the format of the program in advance. It can be workshops, seminars, online modules, or maybe a combination of all these.
Tip: Avoid a lecture-style session. It’s boring. Instead, foster open discussions, role-playing, and group activities to engage employees and promote better understanding.
Encourage diversity in leadership roles
Diversity brings unique perspectives, skills, and experiences to the table. And it’s even better when it’s encouraged at every level.
Why? Because when different viewpoints are included in the decision-making process, it challenges assumptions and helps identify blind spots, leading to more innovative and well-rounded choices.
Also, many studies show that companies with diverse leadership are better equipped to adapt to changing market dynamics and evolving candidate needs. Isn’t it great?
You can achieve it, too, just by implementing a few simple tips.
For instance, you can establish formal mentorship programs to connect aspiring female leaders of your company with experienced mentors who can provide them with guidance and support.
Or, consider sponsorship initiatives where influential leaders actively advocate for the career advancement of these talented women.
Apart from these, regularly assess hiring and promotion processes to ensure they are free from bias and that qualified women are given equal opportunities to advance into leadership roles.
Develop policies that ensure equal pay for equal work and promote gender diversity at all levels of the organization.
In short, make diversity and inclusion a core part of your company’s values and mission.
Mind that empowering women in leadership positions is not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but it also has tangible benefits for the company’s performance and competitiveness in the job market.
So, make sure you do it right!
Ask for feedback and make necessary changes
An open and honest conversation can make the world go around.
And the good news is: From offering a safe space to talk to actively listening, there are many ways to create an effective feedback system that empowers women (otherwise conditioned to remain silent) to express their opinions freely.
This not only contributes to building a female-friendly workplace but also demonstrates your commitment to valuing the work of each of your employees (both men and women equally) put in to drive your business forward.
Now the main question is how can you build a feedback system that always works?
Well, it’s pretty simple! Just know that people are brutally honest when they are sure no one will come for their neck or fire them for mere opinions.
That’s exactly what you have to do – set up confidential spaces in your company.
No matter how curious you are to know which feedback belongs to whom, NEVER ask your employees to point out your workplace issues face-to-face.
Instead, let them record their voices (with voice-changing applications), drop anonymous cards in feedback boxes, or fill in online surveys – which you can later address at once during team meetings.
Apart from this, whether an applicant is hired or not, always ask them to fill out a candidate experience survey. It will give you an insight into how gender-biased (or not) your recruitment process is.
And finally, whichever way you choose to gather feedback, LISTEN and work hard to meet your employee’s/candidate’s expectations.
In short, encourage, listen, and take action! It is the only mantra to empower women in the workplace.
Bonus: Be a mentor
Finally, you’ve implemented a strong D&I policy, set up a feedback system that actually works, and have a smooth connected hiring process in place. That’s great, but you shouldn’t stop here.
Instead, now you should think about women’s everyday experiences in your office. And be a mentor to them.
Research shows that 15% of female employees do not receive enough support from their supervisors.
Make sure you do not fall under this category.
Remember, empowering women in the workplace requires more than just hiring female employees or executives.
Making your workplace an ideal place for all people means you must take a hard look at your existing policies and maybe redo them all from scratch.
Yes, it’s a lot of work! But who cares if that’s what it takes to have a thriving business?
Frequently asked questions
Q1- What are the benefits of empowering women in the workplace?
Empowering women in the workplace leads to a more diverse and innovative workforce, improves employee morale and satisfaction, increases productivity, enhances creativity, and boosts overall company performance.
Q2- How can male employees contribute to creating an empowering workplace for women?
Male employees can be allies in empowering women in the workplace by actively promoting gender equality, recognizing and challenging biases, and supporting women’s ideas and initiatives. Remember, creating a culture of inclusivity requires collaboration and support from all employees, regardless of gender.
Q3- What steps can leaders take to champion gender empowerment in their company?
Leaders can champion gender empowerment by establishing policies that promote work-life balance, mentorship, and equal growth opportunities for all employees. Also, they should actively listen to and address concerns raised by women and ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and unbiased. By demonstrating commitment and taking proactive steps, leaders can create a workplace where women feel valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.