Women made history in the US on Tuesday night, winning a record 112 seats in Congress. How can you reach similar results in your workplace? In an article for Forbes, Dr. Pragya Agarwal writes, “Diversity in the workplace is still a huge issue, especially the lack of women in our workforce. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the share of women in the labor force is projected to increase between 2014 and 2024, they are still facing discrimination in the workplace.”
“According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women tend to work fewer hours, many working part-time or temporary jobs. The gender pay gap is a huge issue with women earning about 80 percent of every dollar that men bring home. There has been much written about gender pay gaps recently. However, there are several other issues affect women’s role in the workplace, and why so many more women are leaving the workplace than men. McKinsey & Company reported that it is an uneven playing field which affects women’s advancement and entry into the workplace.”
What can companies do to encourage and keep women in the workplace?
Offer Flexibility: Often flexible work schedules can be a myth. True flexibility means that the employees have the freedom to set their own goals and adjust their schedules around other needs in their life, such as childcare, school pick-ups, urgent hospital appointments and so on. This way the employees feel valued, in control and are more productive. It creates a positive workplace culture, where the company places more emphasis on productivity and performance rather than hours spent at the desk. Often toxic workplace cultures become perpetuated in traditionally male-dominated environments, where performance and commitment are measured by the hours put into the job, the time that the employee leaves the office, the late hours of the night that work emails have been sent, or the weekends that are spent working. This creates an artificial expectation and false performance indicators that are impossible to manage around other family commitments, and often this falls on women who are proven to carry the mental load for the family. According to Werk, a business that supports workplace flexibility for individuals and companies, 70% of women who dropped out of the workplace said that they would still be working if they had flexibility. According to the Harvard Business Review, employees who are given the autonomy to work flexibly are happier, more productive, and less likely to quit.
Encourage Female Role Models: Companies and organizations that actively encourage, nurture and foster women in leadership roles also encourage more women into their workforce. Research has shown that diversity is good for business. Creating a truly gender diverse and inclusive workplace is a leadership issue. It has to be a key component in the company’s policies and mission statements and demonstrated through actions. A study by The Financial Times, in 2017, found that women make up 58 percent of the total workforce at a junior level in finance companies. However, this figure is not replicated when it comes to senior roles. Only a quarter of senior financial positions are held by women and, sadly, this figure is only slowly growing. Women can underestimate their value and worth and not apply for promotions. Women can also be shy and modest about talking about their own achievements. Actively identifying females successes, shouting about their achievements, proving more training and support, enabling mentor-mentee relationships and actively encouraging women to apply for leadership roles will help them with their self-belief. Seeing more female role models at senior positions will create a more positive support network and in turn encourage more young women to apply to join the workforce.
Manage Bias: It has been reported that women face more bias, both explicit as well as implicit hidden bias from both men and women. Unconscious bias is a result of ingrained cultural conditioning where women are not considered as valuable to the workforce, and they are seen as not very committed to the job or the organization because of family responsibilities and conflicts. Women might not be as forthcoming in expressing their discontent and their expectations from the employers as they are socially conditioned to undervalue themselves. Women demand less often because they do not want to create a fuss, they want to be seen as an asset and prove their worth. When a community is under-represented, they have more expectations and responsibility to prove themselves. It has also been shown that women tend to face more workplace bullying and undergo much more stress and anxiety in the workplace. Actively encouraging an open dialogue and discussion in the workplace around bias and bullying will support more women be employed and retained.