Though we live in an era where women have a stronger voice than ever, there is still lots of room for progress. But progress and change are happening.
With this progress comes a strong element of corporate responsibility. It is on business leaders to ensure that modern workplace dynamics change with the times.
You don’t need to mimic what companies have done in the past. Instead, you need to create workplace policies that are forward-thinking and all-encompassing in their scope.
Work needs to be a place where every employee is empowered to achieve their maximum potential, regardless of gender. For this to happen, we need to create a workplace where women thrive. Here are 7 ways to do just that.
1. Increase flexibility
If this sounds familiar, its because you have heard it time and time again – flexibility is one of the most attractive perks for employees in every demographic group.
Flexible schedules and the ability to work remotely increase employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement. This results in lower turnover and higher profitability for companies.
Providing all employees with the ability to shift their schedules allows talented women to participate in the workforce. It also allows men to contribute more evenly to household and childcare responsibilities. All without either feeling torn between personal and professional obligations.
It’s a win-win for everyone; that doesn’t cost a corporation anything.
2. Lead with action
Any leader is the driving force when it comes to setting the tone and atmosphere in their workplace. Use your voice to model positive behaviour. When someone at the top acts in a certain way, it tells everyone else that it is acceptable for them to follow their lead.
Something as simple as bringing your child to work when school is closed allows employees to know what this is also an acceptable option for them. Making it ‘okay’ leads to a shift in the culture and understanding of how employees can work.
Now take it further. Create a safe, comfortable room for mothers to pump. Get in little desks for children to colour-in alongside their working parents. Put juice boxes in the fridge. Allow early morning conference calls to be done from home, so family routines aren’t disrupted.
Do what you can to lead with action to create an inclusive culture that empowers women in your workplace.
3. Focus on skills, not qualifications
Its time to redefine what ‘qualified’ means. Previously work history and experience were used to define if someone is qualified for a role. However, when you emphasis skills, it levels the playing field to ensure that women get a fair chance.
Historically minorities have had less access to opportunities that look good on paper, and women have had trouble securing management level roles.
If you just emphasise past experience, you hire the same people who already have access and ignore everyone else. This perpetuates the cycle of locking people out of opportunities to advance.
When you look at skills over experience, you understand what an employee can accomplish in the future. It allows for unbiased decision making when considering who to hire and promote.
4. Multiple frequent evaluations over one single yearly review
Fortune magazine reviewed performance evaluations across industries and found that criticism related to personality, but not job-related skills, appeared in 71 of the 94 annual reviews received by women. Of the 83 reviews received by men, personality criticism only showed up twice.
But when businesses conduct much shorter, highly frequent reviews focused on specific projects, the personality criticism vanishes. And the perceived performance gap between men and women is nearly non-existent.
Yearly reviews rely on overall impressions, which allow for bias to influence all aspects of the review. While monthly or quarterly short, objectively focused evaluations eliminate feelings based grey-area assessments. Frequent performance reviews allow for constructive feedback that is skills-based and specific.
5. Eliminate unconscious bias when hiring
Small changes can make a significant impact on hiring practises. Building “blind hiring” or gender-equal interviewing requirements into all hiring practices goes a long way to ensure that qualified candidates aren’t excluded from consideration.
Small details in job descriptions may be sending subtle messages indicating what gender recruiters imagine for a role. Using tools like Textio can help craft gender-neutral job descriptions that are inclusive.
Are your hiring practices equitable? Do they give candidates a fair shot regardless of gender? If not, its time to make essential changes.
6. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy about harassment
We are in the middle of a cultural movement that sees corporate leaders who behaved inappropriately, or those that enabled them to continue their behaviour, being outed publicly.
But just because this is happening doesn’t mean that their behaviour is new. Women have long been aware of which work environments were welcoming and safe, and which ones turned a blind eye to harassment of all kinds.
It is critical to take a zero-tolerance stand on matters of harassment and assault. Whatever you need to do to root out impropriety and create a safer work environment needs to be done. And it needs to be actioned by leadership.
Women share these kinds of experiences with their professional and personal networks – both positive and negative – and word spreads quickly. Companies earn their reputation on how they take care of their employees.
7. Hold yourself accountable
Change can only happen when we hold ourselves and those around us accountable. The only way to eliminate gender discrimination is to understand how we place people in specific boxes or categories that only create separation and general negativity.
Everyone needs to work towards understanding their own unconscious bias. Once we can acknowledge and actively change our behaviour, we can help others become more inclusive.
We spend so much time at work that as we train ourselves to recognise gender discrimination in the workplace, our efforts will ripple out into other areas of society. By helping women thrive at work, we help them succeed everywhere.
Here’s to a world free of discrimination, filled with positive diversity and inclusion. Happy International woman’s Day.