This year, the United States made a historic move in electing its first female vice president. As Kamala Harris took her seat in the White House, she shattered the glass ceiling and empowered millions of women and minorities to pursue leadership in government and elsewhere.
Now, more women are pursuing leadership roles than ever before, which is good news for businesses that are ready to prioritize and support women leaders. With different perspectives, women can help drive effective solutions and give voice to minorities. They also bring a unique set of skills to the table, including mentorship, customer relations, and negotiation skills.
Ultimately, their experience and input can increase your bottom line and help everyone succeed.
However, some companies still don’t understand why women leaders are important. This confusion or disregard has never been more evident than during the coronavirus pandemic.
Between February and September 2020, 5% of women over 20 and more than 16% of black and Latina women lost their jobs. Meanwhile, only 4.6% of all men lost their jobs.
Evidently, many companies still hold unconscious and conscious beliefs that there’s no room for women in leadership. Others might perceive women as a threat to their job security. Regardless, women are still struggling to obtain equal pay, equal opportunities, and equal consideration for leadership roles.[Source: https://www.cbpp.org/covid-19-recessions-job-losses-greater-among-women-of-color]
It’s more important than ever to elevate women’s voices and prioritize them in your workplace. Here are a few ways you and your team can embrace women leaders and support females everywhere as they continue to break the glass ceiling and pave the way for the generations to come.
1. Recognize the Problem
One of the first steps to prioritizing women in the workplace is recognizing the extent to which your company has welcomed and promoted female employees. Have you done everything you can to create an inclusive atmosphere? Do you show partiality to male recruits or applicants? How do your male employees treat their female counterparts and leaders?
Analyze each area of your business and review historical data to determine where your company stands — and if it’s made any improvements over the years. A closer look will often reveal that even the most inclusive companies have room for improvement.
Once you determine that there’s a problem or opportunities for growth, you can begin creating specific goals to measure and track your company’s progress.
2. Educate Employees
After analyzing the data and recognizing a need for improvement, you can then share the most important information with your employees. Educate them by presenting evidence of gender inequality and how inclusiveness can help organizations thrive. Give examples of how more women might benefit the team and the company as a whole. What do they bring to the table that most men don’t?
If there aren’t many women in leadership, the men in the office may need some convincing. Instead of settling for simple demographics, find out where the company fails to give women chances to progress or expand their careers. Then, everyone can brainstorm new ways to practice inclusiveness and provide more growth opportunities.
3. Hire More Women
Of course, simply recognizing and talking about the problem won’t make it any better. You must take action.
Set an intention and create a deliberate strategy to bring more women into the workplace. More importantly, broadcast your intention to the world. How else are women supposed to hear about all those open positions?
Recruit the best women by looking for places where they congregate. For instance, you might participate in a college job fair or partner with a women’s community organization to find local talent. Point your hiring compass to minorities and other people who are underrepresented to diversify your team further.
While this approach may take more time, you’ll likely gain dozens of high-performing women who are willing to work hard and strive for leadership positions within your company.
4. Provide More Benefits
Companies can also attract more women by advertising benefits. More specifically, they should provide benefits that directly improve womens’ lives and the lives of their families.
For instance, you might consider adding child care, health services, and paid maternity leave. These employee perks signal that you’re an inclusive employer that values women and honors their many roles.
Women who don’t foresee themselves becoming mothers would also appreciate mentorship programs, networking opportunities, and wellness benefits. These perks address women’s barriers to educational and economic success and ensure they always have access to the best resources.
This way, they can learn, grow, and fill leadership roles within the company whenever they please.
5. Carve a Path to Success
Of course, once you create opportunities for women to fill leadership roles, you must carve the path to success. Outline what employees must do to earn a raise, promotion, or bonus, and discuss the responsibilities that come with a higher-paying job title. Give all genders equal opportunity to achieve success and become leaders, as well as the resources to do so.
You might also create specific programs to foster talented womens’ growth in the workplace and address bias and sexism. Establish an inclusivity department or host regular meetings about what gender equality looks like in an ever-changing social and economic landscape. Ultimately, these discussions will shed further light on pertinent issues, make your employees happier, minimize turnover, and boost retention.
6. Celebrate the Trailblazers
Understanding how female leaders have developed throughout history can help you embrace their future advancement. Therefore, it’s important to celebrate women trailblazers.
Shine a spotlight on your industry’s leading women and how they changed business for the better. For instance, if you work in media or news, you might share the story of Arianna Huffington, who co-founded The Huffington Post in 2005. Meanwhile, those in the tech industry might learn more about Sandra Lerner, the woman behind Cisco Systems.
Search for female trailblazers within your organization, too. Odds are good there’s a female or two who were integral to your company’s development from the very beginning. Reflect on their accomplishments and how they persevered in the face of adversity and inequality.
Then, consider how you can help women in your industry and workplace take a similar approach to challenges. More importantly, find ways to minimize difficulties and provide equal opportunities for both men and women.
7. Participate in Larger Initiatives
Sometimes, small businesses don’t have the finances or resources to develop an in-house women’s leadership program. In this case, it’s wise to partner with another small business to create a large-scale initiative.
You might even participate in community-wide programs, challenges, and awareness initiatives to better support women in leadership in your workplace and around the world.
For instance, you might choose to accept the ElevateHER Challenge. Learn how to prioritize women’s leadership in the workplace by making a pledge to elevate their voices. Adapt policies to meet these commitments and form support systems to help women succeed both in and out of the office.
This challenge also encourages businesses to monitor pay, raise retention rates, and increase the number of women on community and corporate boards.
8. Close the Pay Gap
Not every business can provide benefits or a long list of employee perks. However, every single one should offer equal pay.
Whether a leadership position goes to a woman or a man, their paycheck should remain the same. Yet, women continue to receive lower pay, even though they hold the same job titles as their male counterparts.
Indeed, 25% of women report earning less than a man, while only 5% of men say they earn less than women.[Source:https://www.payscale.com/data/gender-pay-gap]
Part of the reason why the gender pay gap is still an issue is that women are more likely to take time off to raise children and manage a family. However, this explanation doesn’t fully account for the gap, nor do differences in education, experience, or occupation.
Evidently, unconscious bias and discrimination are still affecting pay. However, these factors are difficult to measure. Therefore, it’s often up to leaders to address the gap and offer equal pay to everyone.
9. Invest in the Next Generation
Society must continue empowering and supporting women to pursue leadership roles and break gender barriers, even as you strive to eradicate obstacles. Give women entrepreneurs a leg up by sharing technology recommendations, making time for face-to-face interactions, and volunteering through community organizations.
Offer your skills and corporate know-how to the younger generation so they have a strong foundation to build upon and have more to offer when they’re ready to enter the workforce themselves.
Go a step further by offering scholarships, internships, and other opportunities for women in your community. Establish a fund to help women and other underrepresented minorities focus on skill development or get a business up and running.
Ultimately, the more you invest in the next generation, the more successful your company will be, especially if those women choose to work for you — or become your boss — someday.
Focusing on Retainment
If you’ve made the decision to prioritize women’s leadership roles in the workplace and are making a concerted effort to do so, retaining female employees shouldn’t be an issue. However, it’s a good idea to frequently check in with your team and ask for feedback to determine whether you’re truly supporting women and meeting their needs.
As women continue to rise and change the face of business and the economy, discussing developments with your employees will become even more imperative. Ultimately, staying informed and embracing change will ensure you’re continually paving the way for today’s women leaders and the generations of leaders to come.
Ginger Abbot is a career and learning writer. When she’s not freelancing, she’s serving as Editor-in-Chief for the education publication Classrooms.