While gender equality has become a major focus for leading organizations in recent years, many female professionals are still often overlooked when it comes to leadership positions. In fact:
- Just 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women
- Only 4.8% of the world’s leading organizations’ have a female leader.
- And In 2020, the US Census Bureau found that for every dollar earned by male professionals, women earn just 83 cents.
Various studies have proven that diversity at senior level enhances organizational performance, so why are there still so many barriers in place for professional women? And how can we make our workplaces more equitable for women?
How Businesses Succeed with Women in Leadership
In an ideal world, there would be no reason to consider how women in leadership benefit the company. Any business that truly reflects its diverse consumer market would already have an equitably staffed workplace.
Unfortunately, myths like inadequate sources and talent availability keep workplaces stuck in heteronormativity, where men and white men, in particular, continue to dominate management teams.
There’s no such thing as inadequate resources when hiring and promoting more women and other marginalized groups. However, if a lack of funding keeps companies from promoting underserved individuals, then funds are poorly distributed.
And with remote and hybrid work models casting a broader net in the talent pool, there’s no reason to suggest there aren’t enough qualified women to hire. In fact, since the pandemic in 2020 and “The Great Resignation” in 2021, many women have left their careers, searching for more opportunities to advance (48%), better support from senior leadership (22%), more flexibility (20%), more equitable workplaces focused on DEI (18%), and companies committed to wellbeing (18%). Now more than ever, the talent pool is rich with hiring opportunities.
With so much churn in the job market, businesses should keep their eyes on the current climate of DE&I. Studies show that gender diverse companies are also more successful:
60.2% of gender diverse companies report increased profits and productivity
56.8% report an increased ability to attract and retain talent
54.4% report greater creativity, innovation, and openness
54.1% report enhanced company reputation
36.5% report a better ability to gauge consumer interest and demand
Another unfortunate statistic is that women in leadership also decrease the likelihood of crime and scandal in the workplace.
Initiatives that support DEI or ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) also drive stakeholder metrics. Today’s key stakeholders are interested in those initiatives and they prefer to invest in companies that model strong DEI and ESG metrics.
Just one of the ways to be a top rated company of choice is to ensure you have enough women filling leadership roles.
How To Make the Workplace More Equitable For Women
Career experts have previously voiced their support for women leaders by offering advice to women on how to thrive. But that places more responsibility on overworked women and it has proved not to work.
Real change must happen where the problem begins, with the decision-makers and leaders who perpetuate inequality. This issue needs to go beyond simply having more women in leadership. There needs to be a cultural shift in which healthy work practices are initiated and followed regularly on the day-to-day logistical level. That’s how workplace culture exists.
Do More Than Offer Fair Compensation
So, you’ve offered pay raises to the women in your leadership teams to close the gender pay gap. What’s next? Studies have found that women work more hours each year than men on extra tasks outside their roles.
These tasks include sitting on committees, such as for DEI work, and jumping in to problem-solve for other colleagues. How often are these extra credit tasks discussed and rewarded during the performance review process or given to male leaders?
Leaders need to ensure that the women in their workplaces receive adequate credit for their work or even unburdened from them. Empower your workers to say no to unfair asks.
Re-Distribute Labor To Make It More Equitable
In addition to women taking on more projects than their male colleagues, women are also expected to fulfill domestic tasks. Women are seen as the helpers of society, which means that the “lower-skill” chores tend to fall on them.
In your office, who makes the coffee every day? Who is expected to take the minutes of each meeting? How about the planning committees for holidays and office parties?
The labor of keeping up with office domestics tends to go unnoticed. They are tasks that must be done, and are easy to take for granted when they get done every day without fail. The most significant way to ensure fair labor is by taking inventory of what gets completed down to the lowest level. Leaders should ensure that if these tasks aren’t rotationally divided, then there is an equal amount of men doing them alongside women.
Alternatively, creating a dedicated position for these tasks such as an office manager or executive assistant will help eliminate the additional mental and administrative load the women in your office may be taking on.
Manage Language and Culture in Workplace Meetings
While leaders might manage office microaggressions, workplace meetings are easy to overlook. This is especially true in the case of remote and hybrid workplaces, where Zoom meetings and other remote environments are harder to manage.
The unpredictability of technology often makes these communications desperate or frenzied. People having to sit on a video for an extended time want to get it done and over with. They also don’t want to make typed-out dialogue any longer than it has to be.
That means that small acts of inequity—someone else taking credit for an idea or task, for instance—get ignored in favor of moving on with the meeting. It’s also much harder to jump in on virtual meetings, increasing the likelihood that women will go unheard.
These are habits that happen in person, too and the more often they happen, the more the resentment can build. Leaders are so focused on the purpose of the meeting that they are less likely to be aware of gender inequality in the room. Being aware and starting to notice and adjust in the moment is the first step to cultivating change.
Enforce Consequences in Response to Unhealthy Workplace Behaviors
Suppose the definition of workplace culture is the routine practice of group behaviors. In that case, leaders should ask what everyday behaviors make their workplaces unhealthy. When leaders keep their eyes and ears out for signs of microaggressions, it can help to illuminate group behaviors that may have gone unnoticed before. How often are people commenting on a woman’s workplace attire? How are women being talked about or addressed? Are the women on the team continually being interrupted or shut down in meetings?
Leaders should do their research to recognize microaggressions instead of expecting women to address or report them. Ways to address microaggressions in the workplace can be by providing analysis, offering professional development, or holding a meeting to discuss.
To demonstrate active listening, consequences need to exist in response to microaggressions, not just big scandals. Whether that’s the discomfort of addressing in the moment or a addressing in performance reviews or with HR, companies should demonstrate a no-tolerance policy.
This will promote trust and good faith in your leadership ability and the company’s culture, helping you to not only retain the talented women your company needs, but to attract top talent to help your company grow.
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