Through the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up campaign, women have changed the discussion about their place in the workforce, bringing to light issues and obstacles they face every day. The McKinsey 2020 Women in the Workplace survey found that while more women are rising to the top levels of companies, they are still underrepresented at every level.
While women are slowly gaining traction in the workplace, women can only do so much to promote themselves; organizations and their leaders must step in and begin eliminating bias while supporting and empowering female employees.
From hiring to mentorship, there are myriad ways to support women at your organization.
You have the power to make them feel welcomed, included, and supported. When employees feel empowered at work, they are likely to have stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization.
So, how can you empower your female employees?
Accept That Gender Diversity Is a Priority
As a leader, if you accept that this is a critical issue that needs to be addressed, the rest of the organization is likely to follow in your footsteps. This in turn will enact a sense of urgency to tackle and begin to correct this issue.
Establish Goals for Improving Gender Diversity
Complete an analysis of your organization by asking for recommendations on improvements from employees and really listening to what they have to say. From the information collected, you can establish business goals for improving gender diversity and diver deeper into where bottlenecks might be for women leaders to move up the ranks.
Be sure to educate your company about these initiatives and make sure your goals are implemented consistently across the board.
Having talented women in leadership can help foster and grow aspirations for those just coming into the workforce or those looking to move up the ladder. Encourage women to pursue opportunities at every level.
By promoting women at the same rate as men, you show them that they and their skills are valuable assets to your organization.
Instead of just communicating action items or criticism, praise your female team members when it is deserved as well. Celebrate their strengths and accomplishments.
When you hear a great idea from a female colleague, call it out. Recognize the contribution, give credit where it is due, and open a dialogue for further exploration of the topic.
Support Professional Development
Looking into better training for your employees on topics such as implicit bias, diversity and inclusion, and flexible working will continue to bring issues women face to the forefront so your company can keep evolving training and policies.
But go even further. Work to create opportunities for professional development for women.
- Mentorship. When someone new joins the team, or even if you see someone struggling to fit in, reach out and be there for them. Having someone to turn to and build a relationship with is a great way to jump start success within an organization.
- Sponsorship. For women, sponsors – or people in positions of authority who use their influence intentionally to help others advance – are crucial to ensuring career advancement and professional development. They offer visibility, they talk about accomplishments behind closed doors, and they push for stretch opportunities and promotions.
- Coaching. Having your managers act as coaches will benefit all employees, including the female employees aspiring to build their skills and get feedback on their work performance. Regular coaching conversations are also a great way to identify potential leaders for succession planning.
Connect Your Network
With stronger networks, women can become better connected to seek out career support or mentors. Introduce people that can provide a pathway to resources and knowledge women could need.
Offer a Flexible Work Environment
Flexibility in an organization allows employees to find a balance between their work and home lives.
Women play multiple roles, from mothers to caregivers to breadwinners. An initiative like flexible working options provides women with much needed balance as they navigate their multiple roles, both in the workplace and at home.
Close the Pay Gap
Since women in the U.S. earn about 80% of what men earn, the best way to begin do this is to conduct pay equity audits. Look for inconsistencies between pay rates and make sure that all employees with equal experience and in a similar role are paid the same as their counterparts.
Women are often seen as caregivers, and the gap in pay becomes even more noticeable if a woman becomes a mother.
A paper titled “Children and Gender Inequality: Evidence from Denmark” found that women and men are on relatively equal footing until the birth of their first child, when pay for women falls immediately after childbirth, but men’s never changes. The two rates do not converge again in what many call the “child penalty.”
It may be obvious that not all women are the same, but there is still gender bias regarding how women should and should not act. Let your employees know that you value their different qualities and embrace that every woman has their own story to tell.
There is certainly more work to be done, but it’s up to you to do your part as a leader to help even the playing field so women feel heard, included, valued, supported, and empowered.
You can lead your female employees to achieve great things for not only your organization, but for themselves as well.