10 Ways to Support the Women in Your Organization During Women's History Month
Today marks the start of Women’s History Month. Whether you are leading an organization, managing a department, or part of a team, here are some suggestions on how to support the women in your workplace:
1 - Provide women with opportunities for learning and development. This can be in the form of a group training program, or for longer lasting, meaningful change and growth, consider providing customized executive coaching. Nothing shows you value someone more than investing in their learning and development.
2 - Prohibit sexual harassment. Make sure your harassment policy is not just lip service but a meaningful, enforced policy that protects everyone’s right to work in an environment that is free from sexual harassment. Your policy, as well as your culture, must encourage employees to treat one another with dignity and respect at all times. This has to start from the top.
3 - Fix your first rung if it’s broken. Is your company’s first rung broken? According to an extensive study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co., it’s the first promotion from entry-level to manager that hinders women the most. “In reality, women are disadvantaged from the get-go, and they never catch up.” According to the report, for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. The impact of this initial broken rung gets magnified further up the corporate ladder, all the way to the top, where 79 percent of C-suite executives are men. The reason we don’t have gender equality can be traced all the way back to that important first promotion.
4 - Listen to the women on your team. Make sure women’s voices are heard and be aware of the dangers of “hepeating”. Unfortunately, women’s voices don’t always get heard in meetings. Sometimes, their ideas are co-opted. Hepeating occurs when a woman voices an idea that gets met with blank stares and silence. A few seconds later, a male colleague repeats it and gets the credit for it. Studies show that women can experience this on a daily basis.
5 - Challenge gender and unconscious bias. Although significant progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in terms of women’s equality in the workplace. Women, especially women of color, remain significantly underrepresented in leadership roles and continue to experience day-to-day bias and microaggressions. Be sure that you are giving women the opportunities they deserve and pay careful attention to “onlys” (the only woman or only woman of color). They feel significant stress and pressure. Correct bias in all levels of your hiring and promotion process.
6 - Provide equal pay. Under federal law, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires employers to pay men and women equally for doing the same work -- equal pay for equal work. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Unfortunately, it’s almost 60 years later and women still only make 84 cents for every dollar earned by men, with estimates by Pew Research of a drop to 76 cents as a result of the pandemic. Look more closely at your pay scales and make sure your organization is part of the solution, not the problem. Congrats to US Women’s Soccer for finally winning the battle for equal pay!
7 - Promote men and women for the same reasons. The study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey also found that men typically get promoted for their potential, whereas women have to prove it by past performance. These unequal standards result in a huge discrepancy in the number of women as compared to men in leadership positions. Change the way women are evaluated for promotions and consider creating formal sponsor and mentor programs for female colleagues in your organization.
8 - Recognize and reward leaders who promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although many organizations say they have made diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority, they fall short in actually recognizing and rewarding leaders who are active champions for it.
9 - Offer paternity leave. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “employers serious about building gender equality in their organizations may offer paternity leave to new fathers in addition to maternity leave for new mothers. Further, they should help men take paternity leave as often as women take maternity leave, new research indicates.” Women still bear more of the childcaring responsibilities and offering men the same leave benefits and actually letting them know it is okay to use them, can create greater gender parity.
10 - Provide flexibility with boundaries to avoid burnout (for women and men). Offering flexibility in working hours has improved the well-being of both women and men during this pandemic. However, it is equally important to provide boundaries and guidance so that employees do not feel the need to be available 24/7. Clearly state that employees do not need to respond to non-urgent requests outside of working hours and create similar protective time boundaries. Leaders need to role-model healthy work/life boundaries.
Use this month to take the opportunity to try one (or all 😊) of these suggestions to create greater gender equality at your workplace.
Interested in providing coaching or upskilling for the women on your team that is customized to who they are as well as your organization's culture and values? Contact me at Janine@JanineFriedman.com.
For more information, please see this extensive report from LeanIn.org & McKinsey: https://leanin.org/women-in-the-workplace-report-2021
Women in the Workplace, LeanIn.org and McKinsey and Company 2021
SHRM Research: More Employers Are Offering Paid Leave, Allen Smith 2020
Pew Research: Gender Pay Gap in U.S. Held Steady in 2020, Amanda Barroso and Anna Brown, 2021
Janine Friedman, Owner of Choice Training and Coaching Solutions, Inc. is an executive and leadership coach who is passionate about supporting women who are struggling to achieve success in the workplace and in life. She provides the tools necessary to help women develop the competence and confidence to reach their full potential. To learn more about her background click here.
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