How to Make Your Company a Great Place for Women
We all know gender-diversity is great for people and for business.
So why does it seem like it’s still at the bottom of the list for so many employers?
Despite being post -#MeToo, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, with the majority of women struggling to have their voices heard.
According to Catalyst, women count for only 6.6% of the Fortune 500 CEO list, and the average woman in the US earns only $0.82 for every dollar earned by a man.
So not cool.
But there is good news on the horizon.
Because as baby boomers move into retirement, millennials are primed to take over the workforce. And this is the most diverse generation in history.
The impact is already palpable, with 67% of job seekers prioritizing workplace diversity in a new role, and more than half of millennials claiming they’d take a pay cut to work for an employer who shares their values.
It’s time for companies to start taking this seriously—because those who don’t will get left behind.
If you’re still unsure about how to make your workplace better for women, you’re in the right place. We’ve reached out to diversity experts across the country to find out exactly what it takes to create an inclusive, welcoming company and attract the diversity you need to succeed.
Update your diversity and inclusion policies
First thing’s first: to show the world you mean what you say about diversity, you need to get your paperwork in order.
Policies are your company’s ‘rules of engagement’ and with 87% of global businesses agreeing D&I is an organizational priority, it's time to step up and document your commitment to D&I with an up-to-date policy to back up your ideas.
Here’s how to create (or update) your D&I policy:
- Get your team involved: Get everyone on the same page by meeting with your CEO and company managers to find out what they think is important. Use surveys to check in with lower-level employees so everyone gets a say.
- Create an easy-to-read doc: Once you’ve fleshed out your company’s D&I priorities with your team, it’s time to get them on paper. Make sure your policy is concise, accessible and covers every point.
- Make sure you’ve got it all: Circulate your draft policy to upper management to make sure you’ve included everything set out in your original meeting.
- Share your policy: Once you’ve created a D&I policy to be proud of, share it on your website, during the hiring process and even on your office walls.
- Check back regularly: Change happens, so check back every couple of months to make sure your policy is still bias-free.
Show women you care by offering the right benefits
Next on your journey to becoming a better workplace for women is your benefits offer.
Imagine if your next unicorn candidate was declined your offer because you didn’t offer childcare support. Ouch. 🙅
With over a million millennials becoming moms each year, let’s just say: if you don’t have gender-balanced benefits, it’s time to rethink your offer.
Here’s what millennial job seekers want:
- Family benefits: From work from home options to on-site child care, offering family benefits will help snatch up those A-player candidates who just happen to be moms.
- Lifestyle support: Millennials want flexible work. That’s a fact. Offer flexitime and home-working opportunities to ace your benefits bundle.
- Training and development: 87% of millennials say ongoing training is important to them. Think about your current development opportunities and how you can improve them.
Ace your candidate experience
Imagine: you’ve found what seems like your dream job—but as soon as you respond, you realize the hiring process is packed with bias-filled obstacles.
We’ve all been there.
And with nearly 50% of candidates saying they’ve turned down a role after a crappy hiring experience, it’s SO important to make sure your processes are a total dream.
Suzanne Lucas, Owner at Evil HR Lady, believes years of terrible hiring processes has led to candidates taking charge.
“I think we need to ask, ‘Are recruiters more effective than they were 5 or 10 years ago, regardless of gender?’ The answer is that after years of ghosting candidates the tables have turned and candidates ghost them. It’s the direct and predictable consequence of years of bad behavior,” she says.
So how do you create the ultimate candidate journey?
Here are a few key pointers to get you started:
- Invest in an awesome ATS: And we’re not just saying that because we are one. The fact is, if you’re using a patchwork system of email, Trello and Excel sheets to manage your candidates, you’re going to end up losing track of applications and replying to candidates late or not at all. It’s bad for candidates and it’s bad for business.
- Keep communications crystal-clear: From day one, your candidates want to know where they stand. Whether you hire them or not, be clear, open and friendly throughout your process.
- Stay bias-free: Use your ATS’s blind-screening and filter features to avoid unconscious bias. To really make sure you’re bias-free, get colleagues to sense-check hiring decisions.
- Ask for feedback (and act on it): Whatever the outcome of your candidate’s journey, ask for feedback to find out about their experience with you. Then use it to make changes so your hiring process really sparkles. ✨
Design a supportive environment for women in the workplace
You’ve prepped a strong D&I policy, aced your inclusive benefits offer and have a smooth bias-free hiring process. That’s great, but you’re not done yet.
Now it’s time to think about women’s everyday experience in your office.
According to expert Maren Hogan, Chief Marketing Brain at Red Branch Media, the work environment needs to actively support women across the board. That means colleagues standing up for colleagues and a workforce-wide celebration of skills and abilities that are traditionally seen as more feminine.
“By the time our daughters are in the workforce, I hope we'll see more pervasive influence of the feminine, whether that's women standing up for one another when they're interrupted, or nurturing an employee through a difficult time, or underscoring the importance of emotional intelligence and creating male allies in the workplace,” says Maren.
How to make sure everyone knows how to support women in the workplace:
- Have an open discussion with managers and employees about the subconscious biases that can sneak into the workplace
- Share common examples of how women are treated unfairly at work (this can include everything from pay inequality to exclamation points, to unconsciously judging women more harshly in performance appraisals, judging them for taking maternity leave and more.)
- Let everyone know that these kinds of outdated practices—while common and often unconscious—are NOT ok.
- Ask everyone to take responsibility for pointing out unconscious bias whenever they see it so you can all work together to do better.
“Women bring lots of skills and intelligence to the table. We're only now starting to act like ourselves instead of trying to emulate the masculine way of doing business… We all benefit when the workplace is balanced with all kinds of people and each one is celebrated for their unique contribution.”
Amen to that! 🙌
Ask your female-identifying employees for feedback
Communication makes the world go around.
From creating safe spaces to talk, to learning how to actively listen, there are so many ways to create a feedback system that actually works. Many women have been conditioned to stay quiet but by having a dedicated feedback path, you ensure the women in your office know exactly which steps to take if they feel they need to speak up.
The right feedback system also helps you hit two gender-equality birds with one stone: not only does feedback teach you how to be more inclusive, it also shows your female employees and candidates they’re being listened to.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at Workology believes everyone is responsible for change.
“It's up to us to ask for and expect from future HR leaders even more diversity in their mentors and leaders—not just for women but promoting all types of diversity including race, people with disabilities, and educational and experiences,” she says.
And HR pro Sabrina Baker, HR Consultant & Co-Founder at DisruptHR Las Angeles, agrees: “When I first started my career, every talent conference, article or book written featured men. In the last decade or so, women have realized that what they have to say is just as valuable and have taken it upon themselves to make sure they are heard. What is most important about that is that people are listening.”
Here are some proven ways to create an effective feedback system for the women in your workplace:
- Create a safe space: Confidential feedback sessions can be a great way to dig deep into what your employees really think. Face-to-face feedback can be difficult, so do everything you can to make them feel relaxed, safe and willing to talk.
- Let employees give feedback anonymously: For some people, face-to-face just won’t work. Anonymous feedback boxes and online surveys are great ways to find out what your employees really think. 🕵️
- Check in with candidates: Whether your candidate gets the job or not, ask them to fill out a candidate experience survey to help you figure out how gender-biased (or not) your processes really are.
- Actively ask: Just because you offer a space for people to give feedback, doesn’t mean they will. Ask team members to speak up so you can find out what matters to them.
- Actively listen: Whichever way you choose to gather feedback, make sure you listen carefully and work hard to make the changes your employees need.
Encourage a women-friendly workforce
For most of us, outdated gender-stereotypes are cringeworthy—but sadly they still exist.
That’s why it’s up to employers to create an environment where gender-bias is challenged every time by everyone.
Female empowerment guru Susan L. Colantuono, CEO at Leading Women, believes a woke workforce is what it’s all about.
“Winning will be when gender dynamics that disadvantage women are taken out of the equation. When lame excuses for choosing a man (e.g. she wouldn't want the job, she has children, or she just doesn't have 'it’, or she has 'sharp elbows') are no longer uttered—or, if uttered, are challenged by others in the room (men and women).”
Here are a few ways to create a socially conscious culture in your workplace:
- Don’t shy away from hard conversations - Let your employees speak openly about past experiences, trending topics, or other issues related to how women are treated in the workplace.
- Stay clear-headed - Conversations related to sexism (or any other nasty -ism) are bound to get emotional. Stay calm, logical and focused on finding a solution.
- Troubleshoot issues together - If an issue arises at work, sit down with a dedicated internal task force to determine how to solve it the best way possible. And whatever you do, DO NOT sweep it under the rug. It will come back to bite you.
Hire for culture add
Every HR pro knows exactly what they mean when they think of ‘culture fit’.
From the way your candidate approaches problems to how they prioritize tasks, depending on your company culture, there’s a definite ‘type’ each recruiter knows to look for.
But what if you dropped the search for culture ‘fit’ and instead looked for culture ‘add’
Employee Success Lead at Unito, Sarah Corboliou, believes these days it’s all about add over fit.
“For a long time we were talking about 'culture fit' but now we want ‘culture add-on’. Someone who has the same basic principles but a different point of view and can bring those new insights to the company. Usually the way companies think about that is in terms of skills and experience, but I think it goes even deeper than that to personality,” she says.
And as D&I guru at Unito, Sarah knows her stuff, “We have a really strong culture. Diversity is one of the big things that makes people want to come work for us and makes people want to stay at Unito.”
So, what does this mean for your hiring process?
Here’s a quick step-by-step process to hire for culture add:
- Think about the skills and experience your current workforce have and write a list of new skills you could benefit from.
- Use this list to design interview questions that’ll help pinpoint these skills.
- Use personality interview questions to see if they’ll fit in with your company culture
- Stay on the lookout for candidates who bring in new and unexpected skills.
There are billions of headlines, training courses and seminars—all with the explicit aim of proving why a women-friendly workplace is a must.
But talking’s not enough—we need action.
To truly ace a better workplace for women there’s one action that stands above the rest: Get women in.
“The presence of women in [talent]… shows people—both outside and inside the organization—that women's skills, talents and perspectives are valued and present,” says Jennifer McClure, Founder & CEO at Unbridled Talent.
She believes nothing will change until women are truly represented in the workplace.
“Since women represent nearly 50% of the population worldwide, it's important to ensure their voices are included, as well as represented.”
Rachel Hammerton, Director of Recruitment & Toronto Director of Care at Spark Lifecare, totally agrees: “Women play an important role in even just representation when it comes to talent. Women can play a large and important role in the company as a whole, and if they’re one of the first points of contact that an individual has when they are applying for a job, it may help to decrease the feelings of isolation as women apply to positions,” explains Rachel.
“As the role of women in the workforce itself grows, it highlights the importance of women when it comes to seeking talent… and [shows women] they aren't alone in the workforce.”
Get diversity champions in at all levels
Everyone needs a champion in their life—the person that stands up for them and tells them how awesome they are.
For women in the workplace, those champions need to be visible at all levels.
According to Destiny Lalane, Recruitment Consultant & Comedian (that’s right!), all employees from CEO’s to entry-level staff need to stand up for diversity.
“Hearing a CEO champion diversity and question hiring standards that feel too rigid is truly inspiring—especially as companies grow and processes begin to change,” says Destiny.
“Winning to me is when hiring managers, to new employees, to the CEO rally together to continue to challenge and improve recruiting for the company.”
“Noticing a team is leaning heavy on the male side and keeping an eye out for female talent, making sure we keep an extra eye out for female developers or giving bootcamp graduates without a traditional CS degree a shot—are just a few ways to promote and achieve diversity.”
Women In The Workplace: It’s Time for Change
Gender equality in the workplace isn’t a far-off dream.
From designing a bias-free hiring process to creating a super supportive workplace, there are tangible actions you can take today that can make a real-life difference tomorrow.
According to HR pro Minnie Lenox, Human Resources Director at City of Hot Springs, Arkansas, “It took one brave woman to come forth and take a stand [with #MeToo]. Then we heard of others who had been victimized… We, as Women in HR have to take a stand, be there for those that feel they have no choice and hold others in leadership accountable for their actions!”
Now’s the time to stop focussing on what’s wrong with systems and start taking proactive steps towards a solution—because together we can stand for change.
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