7 Strategies to Establish A Women-Friendly Workplace
Several Indian women – from Vanitha Narayanan, the MD of IBM India, to billionaire entrepreneur Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder of Biocon to Leena Nair who was appointed the global CEO of French luxury group, Chanel – are at the helm of global companies, and at the top of their game. Inspiring as this is, the fact is that there is still a huge gap between the number of women and men who make it to higher management ranks. The question to ask is – does the presence of a woman in a leadership role imply that the workplace is a women-friendly workplace?
Even if we assume that in urban locations, at least, women and men largely start their careers on an equal footing, it can be observed that along the way many women tend to prioritise their personal commitments and family to pursue their careers. This could be due to a lack of support whether it’s bringing up the family or increasing demands from the ‘always available’ work culture.
A Deloitte study on women in the workplace suggests that women in India do not feel their career is progressing as fast as they’d like, especially since the pandemic. It pointed out that 57% women in India say their career is not progressing as fast as they would like. This is much higher than the global average of 42%. Mental and physical health problems are the top reasons why women are concerned about their career progression. Only 3 in 10 (31%) Indian women say their employer’s support for women during the pandemic has been sufficient, compared to 39% globally. This is a big indicator of things.
Bridging the gender gap is the need of the hour, but it should be complemented by giving women the desired job profile, ensuring work-life balance, giving a safe working environment and, most importantly, changing mindsets.
Helping women cope with work pressure at various critical stages of their life and career – like, after marriage, first child, pregnancy, or even divorce could make all the difference. The best way to do this is to implement strategies that are meaningful and that add value to the working woman’s career. Here are some strategies companies can use to support and retain women’s talent and become a women-friendly workplace.
1. Ask them about the challenges they face:
If your employee is pregnant or is going through a big family change like marriage, childbirth or even divorce, ask them what challenges they face and how your company can better accommodate their needs. This can be done by giving them a questionnaire to fill out or by letting them offer feedback during their performance meeting or any other informal meeting. Once they have the opportunity to share their thoughts, you can understand what issues are the most important to them during this critical stage in their life. This information can be used to gain future insight and be implemented through more experience. Gathering information will also help your company automatically become more employee-friendly. Consider offering reduced time and compensation commitment, work from home options, milestones-based pay, to help them navigate their challenges.
2. Offer additional flexibility:
If the pandemic has taught corporations anything, it’s that office work can be done from anywhere and on a flexible schedule. In today’s day and age, a flexible schedule isn’t qualified by time, but instead by results. By offering a flexible culture that prioritises performance instead of in-person meetings and a stipulated number of hours in the office, you can help employees feel more engaged and improve productivity. For example, if an employee has caregiving responsibilities at home, be sure to offer them a flexible work option that they can choose.
3. Make sure the income gap is narrowed:
This would be the game changer. Giving women equal pay is another critical step in closing the wage gap and improving retention. Review your company’s salary and benefits and compare the income between your male and female employees. Are the women receiving equal pay for equal work? Were they offered the same stock options as their male counterparts? If you notice there is an obvious discrepancy, now is the time to rectify the situation. Even if the process to move to equity is gradual, you can do many things to narrow the gap. If your company is in a position to offer equity-based awards, such as stock options, ensure your women employees have access to them.
4. Provide leadership, and networking opportunities and develop a mentorship programme:
According to a recent McKinsey study, women are less likely to advance in their careers due to a lack of mentorship and sponsorship. These programmes are wonderful ways to improve employee retention for everyone at the company, not just working moms. They go a long way toward retaining highly talented, ambitious employees while allowing them to receive relevant guidance on how to best take their career to the next level – like skill development opportunities and offering ongoing support. Seeing a leader in the organisation that an employee can identify with gives confidence that they too can advance to that level.
5. Introduce diversity at all levels throughout your organisation:
Companies are often using recruitment strategies that subconsciously exclude or dissuade female applicants from applying. The very words you use in your job descriptions can impact whether a female applicant decides to apply to your company. If your goal is to hire more employees in traditionally underrepresented groups, you need to ensure you’re not using gendered terms or pronouns in your job descriptions, for starters. Instead of saying that you’re looking for a “designing superhero,” instead use a gender-neutral title, like “pro designer”.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives work best not as a separate function in a company, but rather as a priority and objective in every department at every level. To achieve this, establish key performance indicators for the management to develop diverse talent at all employment levels, with a focus on senior levels. The benefits of workplace diversity can range from higher revenue, more innovation, better decision-making, equal access, being treated fairly, higher rates of job acceptance when you make offers to qualified candidates and better performance than competitors.
6. Recognise and reward good effort:
An official employee reward and recognition programme is one of the easiest and best ways to create an uplifting work culture that promotes hard work, drives engagement, and increases everyone’s job satisfaction. The great thing about taking gender into account when designing your recognition programme is that you don’t have to have different systems in place for men and women. Instead, you need to know how to deliver recognition so that it has the maximum impact.Keeping gender in mind as you approach recognition can improve the efficacy of your praise. Rewards go beyond just higher pay. For instance, allowing a woman to lead a project, offering training programmes to help better her skills, or appreciation either written or spoken makes them more committed to the organisation. Make positive reinforcement and constructive feedback part of your work routine. It will acknowledge the efforts of your employees and help them pivot if they are veering to the wrong path.
7. Prepare a path for female employees to return:
Sometimes the best way to be an advocate for female employees is to make sure they’ll have a seat at the table when they come back to work from a long break like pregnancy or an emotionally draining break from a divorce. Develop a structured return-to-work pathway that provides the necessary support and resources for these employees. This program could include mentorship opportunities, flexible working arrangements, and tailored training to update their skills and knowledge.
Additionally, one must communicate this pathway clearly to all employees, highlighting your dedication to an inclusive and supportive work environment. By doing so, you not only enrich our company culture but also enhance our reputation as an employer of choice for talented professionals.
At the end of the day, employee turnover is expensive and negatively impacts your bottom line. Finding a way to elevate the women in your workplace is a big step towards creating a more inclusive work environment, which can mean the difference between retaining your current staff and increasing your spending on recruitment initiatives. Progress is ours for the taking. If leaders work to create workplaces that are flexible and innovative, all employees can succeed and emerge stronger and better than before.
At Yellow Spark, we can help you design and implement a diverse and inclusive workplace. To know more write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.