Economic empowerment is one of the driving forces of gender justice. Similarly, gender equality is essential for inclusive economic growth. Investing in women’s economic empowerment makes way for social and cultural shifts as well. However, closing gender gaps is challenging. Data from the World Bank states that the female labor participation rate in India has fallen from 30.27% in 1990 to 20.8% in 2019. To top it all, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the workplace.
Several global agencies have been working toward women’s economic empowerment. Efforts have been made toward increasing the number of women in the labor force, including in leadership positions. But women continue to remain under-represented across all managerial levels. Studies have also suggested the turnover rates for women employees have been high in some industries. In addition to diversity and inclusion efforts, organizations need to start looking at ways to improve employee retention and job satisfaction for women at work.
Women And Work: Why Bridge The Gap?
With increasing opportunities, women are earning more undergraduate degrees and even negotiating salaries at the same rate as others—so why the gender gap? Studies have shown that the benefits of having women in the workplace are immense. From increasing productivity to decreasing burnout, women professionals are known to exceed expectations. Therefore, an inclusive work environment also brings in positive effects, such as:
People from diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives to the table. The quality of brainstorming sessions and group discussions is enhanced when there are different approaches offered for the same problem. It improves problem-solving and helps build brand credibility.
Researchers have found women professionals tend to have strong communication skills and are efficient in reading non-verbal cues. They make the most of group conversations and encourage collaboration and cooperation in projects. Emotional intelligence and empathy are instrumental in building trust.
An inclusive work environment breeds positivity with an increasing exchange of ideas and perspectives. This further improves morale and opportunities. Therefore, having people from different walks of life reduces churn rates. It helps businesses save resources that would’ve otherwise been spent on recruitment.
What Do Women At Work Want?
Women search for jobs differently than other job-seekers. A Hewlett Packard report found that women apply for jobs or promotions only when they meet 100% of the requirements. If organizations want to encourage women to apply for jobs and retain them, they need to take active and mindful measures.
In recent years, numerous studies have looked at what women in the workplace need and want. In addition to equal pay, various other elements attract women professionals and motivate them to stay longer in an organization. Here is a list of the top things that women at work want.
Many women professionals want to find meaning and value in the work they do. Their definition of job satisfaction isn’t limited to higher pay and perks. They seek out things that align well with other areas of their lives. Many want projects that connect to their purpose, values and need for work-life balance. Organizations should create opportunities that provide employees more freedom to choose projects as it increases productivity and efficiency.
Flexibility And Paid Leave
While the option of remote work has been around for some time, it has become a must-have in this ‘new normal’ world. It’s undeniable that most women have to drop out of the workforce for housework and child care. With greater flexibility in paternity leave, work schedules and work-life balance, there is room to accommodate multiple responsibilities. The option of remote working is beneficial for an organization as well. It helps them tap into a more diverse talent pool and makes the work environment more inclusive.
Mentors And Role Models
Women at work often look at an organization’s leadership and check how other women employees are represented. This helps them gauge if other women have succeeded and if they can too. Some businesses prioritize programs to help women connect and expand professional networks. They even encourage them to seek out mentors and role models to provide guidance and support. Having women mentors is an added advantage as lived experiences help address underlying issues and challenges.
Professional Development Opportunities
Women at work often struggle to climb the corporate ladder because of the broken rung—a concept popularized by McKinsey and LeanIn. It refers to the biggest obstacle women face: the first step up from entry-level position to manager. Organizations need to prioritize professional development opportunities that help women advance their careers and grow in their fields. Additionally, employee training and development are instrumental in improving employee retention and minimizing churn rates.
Representation And Recognition
In the pursuit of driving diversity and inclusion initiatives, organizations often treat women as a homogenous group facing similar kinds of challenges. While challenges faced by women at work are overlapping, the types of challenges are unique for everyone. Not all women are the same and everyone should get an opportunity to tell their story. Businesses should have a holistic approach and take measures to make women feel heard, valued, supported and empowered. They should encourage women employees to lead themselves not only for the organization but also for themselves.
Women struggle to break the glass ceiling, causing their careers to stagnate in middle-management positions. Women don’t just want professional development opportunities that help them climb the corporate ladder; they want to pursue leadership roles. They want the resources, tools and support necessary to make the most of leadership opportunities. To fully leverage women in leadership positions, businesses should hire women leaders and increase frontline employees who can lead in the future.
Redefine The Future Of Women At Work
As women continue to gain traction in the workplace, there is only so much they can do to promote themselves. This is where the role of organizations comes to the forefront. Businesses and leaders must step in, vocalize and address workplace challenges by eliminating biases and empowering employees. When women professionals feel like they’re being heard and supported, job performance and satisfaction improve automatically. There are many ways to support, encourage and promote women at work and redefine work environments. Here are a few:
Address Unconscious Bias
Unconscious bias refers to underlying attitudes and stereotypes that people unconsciously attribute to others. It affects the way they interact and engage with them. Gender bias is one of the major contributing factors that prevent women from seeking opportunities for professional growth. For example, women are often perceived as collaborative and non-assertive, which hurts women’s leadership potential. Organizations should address unconscious bias by making sure clear processes are in place.
Involve Everyone In The Conversation
The onus of promoting women professionals shouldn’t be solely on women. To create a truly inclusive workplace, organizations need to involve everyone, across all levels of management. By sensitizing and educating everyone about the challenges, organizations will be able to secure their support in championing any policy change. This further opens up room for one-on-one discussions, mentoring opportunities and expanding networks.
Encourage Social Time
Studies show that women can hold themselves back as they struggle to balance authenticity and assertiveness. In other words, outspoken women are often misconstrued as aggressive, which affects their reputation and interpersonal relationships. Businesses should address this confidence gap by encouraging women to speak up. For example, during team meetings, team leaders can use open-ended questions so that everyone gets a chance to participate.
Acknowledge Women’s Successes
Acknowledgment and recognition are instrumental in boosting morale and ultimately, productivity. When women’s successes are celebrated, they not only feel good about themselves but they’re also motivated to work harder and commit themselves to the organization. For example, managers and team leaders can send out a congratulatory email or take out the employee for a celebratory lunch.
Invest In Women-Focused Resources
More often than not, women face irreconcilable work breaks. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult for those women who have lost their jobs. They don’t have the necessary skills, technology or resources to work remotely or reskill for other employment. In addition to providing professional development opportunities such as mentoring and sponsorship, organizations need to prioritize leadership and resilience training programs.
Harappa’s Women’s Leadership Program is designed to help organizations encourage and promote leadership opportunities for women professionals. The blended learning program will help you guide women professionals to navigate complex organizational dynamics, focus on building strong networks and alliances and overcome internal interferences to maximize potential. Encourage women employees to make the leap and change the way women are perceived at work.
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