Things Leaders Can Do to Support Women in the Workplace. Let’s leave aside the when and focus on the how. Here are some steps that leaders can take to support women. Flexibility is the main issue at the moment. Millennials demand a work-life balance and see tech as an ally to perform tasks remotely. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, focus on encouraging and empowering women to take advantage of opportunities.
Why is it important to put gender equality on the business agenda?
In this competitive environment, companies must have the right talent to sustain their positioning. Moreover, research shows that hiring more women has a positive impact on the organization’s financial returns. This is because diversity helps companies.
So, as HR leaders, we must take action. Here, I propose 4 initiatives that HR can take to boost the representation of women in decision-making positions. Thus, they help close the gender gap.
The benefits of workplace equity
In any organization, equality is key for inclusion, which in turn is key for achieving a sense of belonging and alignment with company values.
Among the main quantifiable gains, one study found the following benefits of equality at work:
- Improves the work environment
- More women in senior positions
- Reduced pay gap
- Less discrimination in maternity
- Countries with the highest equity also have the lowest levels of gender-based violence and the best quality of life.
Start by changing yourself
Any strategy starts from the leader’s commitment. So, you must believe in equality. Change must be real. Otherwise, you will confuse your team and the initiatives won’t last.
How support women in the workplace: Do not delegate responsibility to others
The equity strategy must align with the vision of the business. So, it must come from the top. Because of this, it is key for leaders to commit before. Then, they can transform the team.
How support women in the workplace: Ask yourself why not?
Companies have people of different ages, cultures, and thoughts. So, it can be hard to convince them of equity’s importance. Changes start from small actions. For example, don’t just say “she does not have the experience”. Instead, ask “can she adapt to the position?”
How support women in the workplace: Be honest in your hiring
You need to hire people who value others. Then, you can optimize the full human potential, including that of women. So, measure success on performance and quality of work, not on hunches.
How support women in the workplace: Promote a culture of inclusion
Generic programs do not work. The last three decades have shown that they do not change behavior. Besides, they don’t reflect in the numbers. So, we need to change our mindset. We need to stop talking about gender and start talking about talent. Inclusion is also a business issue.
How support women in the workplace: Be explicit and set goals
Looking at macro numbers is not enough. We need to get that women can hold any position. They shouldn’t be confined to HR or other stereotypes. Empowering women boost success, as well as experience and chances to advance.
How support women in the workplace: Set real goals
Business is about giving results and setting goals. No choice can be justified if it doesn’t work towards something. So, these changes won’t happen by themselves. Therefore, the company must plan certain things. For example, how will things change and what change will look like. Besides, you can treat it as a business priority or investment. Real change takes time, attention, and discipline.
Make sure that the current way things go doesn’t add to the problem
HR should make sure that company processes do not undermine the development of female talent. Women tend to receive less objective and constructive feedback from their leaders. Problems like this may also happen in other areas. So, it’s worth reviewing and testing internal policies and processes. That way, you can make sure that they are delivering the results for which they were created.
Expose women with leadership potential to strategic projects where they can exercise decision-making with business impact
For some time now, women have been able to hold big positions. However, they are often restricted to areas considered as staff. For instance, finance, marketing, and human resources. Part of the idea is for women to move into more strategic areas. However, to get there, they need to have projects and experiences where they can exercise impactful decision-making.
Some people fear women can’t balance family and work. So, they only low-strategic work. This is an idea that needs to go.
These ideas don’t make sense. Besides, they run on the idea that women will not be able to go the extra mile professionally. That leads to the belief that hiring women can cause problems.
Big positions in organizations require skills such as risk-taking, crisis management, and strategic thinking. People must handle projects that allow them to learn these skills. If people discriminate women, they won’t be able to get these jobs. So, learning is harder. That gives them an unfair chance against men.
Offer leadership programs where women can learn skills such as finance, strategic thinking, and business acumen
Women are often offered soft skills training such as effective communication, executive presence, or strategic networking. These skills are important. However, they aren’t nearly as useful to climb the professional ladder as others. Knowledge of finance, strategy, and business is more important. But, some people don’t consider teaching these things to women.
This is why HR should design programs where skilled women can grow professionally.
Involve men in the process to boost gender equality. Show them male role models that promote these ideas. That might help erase bias.
When talking about gender equality, people believe that this is only a female issue. This is not right. To change the organizational culture, we need both courageous women and men. People who want change and to make an impact in their communities. So, we must involve men in internal company discussions and in the development of new policies that are more inclusive of all.