By Emily Miller, VP EMEA, Workhuman
Despite the inroads women have made in the last decade, there is no denying that we are still fighting for gender equity in the workplace.
More than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was enacted in the UK, the gender pay gap continues to expand. The jobs of over 50,000 women a year are at risk because of pregnancy or maternity leave. There is a lack of female role models in the business world, with women holding only 25% of the five main C-suite positions – meaning 75% of leaders responsible for bettering the workplace for all are men – and there is limited access to professional sponsors and advocates for women.
In addition, unconscious bias remains a huge problem. Workhuman’s recent Human Workplace Index found that of the women who feel they are treated differently in the workplace, 46% believe they are acknowledged less and 31% believe they are promoted less in comparison to their male counterparts.
And while strides have been made to rectify the gender equity problem in the workplace thanks to celebrations like Women’s History Month, organisations like Women in Stem and Girls Who Code, and new regulations to better protect pregnant women, there is still work to be done to overcome these challenges and much to learn.
But there are things that organisations can do right now to begin building a better workplace for women and make strides to tackle the inequity; below are four ways to support and celebrate them today:
- Understanding how the pandemic has affected women – and acting on it
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on working women. Job losses for women were higher than for men, in large part because the worst hit sectors accounted for a large share of female employees, according to McKinsey, in addition to women caring for children 7.4 hours more per week than men, per Gartner. And as recently as January 2022, women quit at a 22% higher rate than men in order to take on more childcare responsibilities.
If nothing else, the experience of the pandemic and new ways of working has forced everyone to reassess the role that work plays in their lives. According to Gartner’s recent analysis of what women want from a hybrid work experience, 65% of women agree the pandemic has made them rethink the place of work in their lives.
Acknowledging how the past few years have affected women is key to understanding what they want from their employers and workplaces now. And by taking the time to listen to what they want and actioning these requests, you’ll be somewhere women will want to work – which, amidst the Great Resignation, is no small thing.
- Build hybrid around women’s needs
With 68% of workers – both women and men – saying hybrid is their preferred way of working, it’s safe to say that hybrid is here to stay. In light of the extra responsibilities, such as childcare, that women often find themselves carrying, the flexibility of hybrid working is also more vital to women in the new era of work.
But it’s important to get hybrid right. While teleconferencing and messaging apps are all well and good, we have all become fatigued with these technologies, so it’s time to take the next step and make new habits that are more inclusive of hybrid work environments, rather than purely remote.
For instance, encourage teams to map out their schedules and tasks based on hitting goals, rather than set hours, which, for women who are juggling childcare and work, is a much more realistic and manageable goal. Or, for women who are returning to work after maternity leave, ensure that there is management support or an Employee Resource Group that are available both online and in-person, so that all new mums can get the support they need, wherever they’re working.
- Create a psychologically safe workplace
Workhuman iQ research estimates unconscious – or implicit – bias in the workplace is found in 20%-30% of written communications, even in a positive setting. This could be something as simple as a thank you message from a male employee to his female colleague saying, ‘Congratulations on the promotion, you’re really showing other women what they can do!’. While well-intentioned, this may be perceived as bias, suggesting she is only able to impact those in her own gender.
In this environment, it can be hard for women to feel psychologically safe – safe to bring their whole, true selves to work, and be unapologetically themselves without fear of recrimination. Indeed, a Workhuman survey into psychological safety revealed that men experience higher psychological safety than women and that working parents have lower psychological safety compared to nonworking parents.
Considering Gallup found that organisations that move towards creating psychological safety for all their employees see a 27% reduction in employee turnover, 40% reduction in safety incidents and a 12% increase in productivity, now is the time to step up to the mark and ensure everyone feels safe enough to be themselves at work.
This can be done, for example, by creating programmes to develop future female leaders and promote female role models. Identify aspiring female leaders – through regular check-ins or peer-to-peer recognition – and match them with coaches and mentors, providing women throughout an organisation with development opportunities and a change to build connections of trust across all levels, promoting change for all.
- Make sure women feel seen, appreciated and valued
When was the last time you were thanked for a job well done at work? And did it make you appreciate your managers, your colleagues and your company more for their gratitude?
We all like our hard work to be acknowledged, and according to Workhuman’s Two Years into COVID: The State of Human Connection at Work report, when people were thanked in the last month, they’re half as likely to be looking for a new job, more than 2x as likely to be highly engaged and to feel respected at work, and more than 3x as likely to see a path to grow in the organisation. In addition, the more recently someone has been thanked by a manager and/or peer, the greater their sense of connection to the company culture and their colleagues.
This connection is crucial for women working in today’s hybrid environment, where lack of face-to-face interaction may result in them being overlooked or feeling Isolated. Recognition helps strengthen bonds of trust and humanity across the whole company, no matter where people are working from. So, encourage co-workers to recognise each other’s work – through a social recognition programme, for example – and show gratitude to each other in the workplace.
In addition, such programmes provide leaders with additional datapoints on which to base their considerations for a pay raise or promotion, ensuring that all employees are regarded with a holistic approach to their career progression.
We can all do better
Whilst strides have been made to ensure equal opportunities for all employees, we can all do better to promote and ensure inclusion, empowerment and respect for all. Not only does this grow a more diverse, more innovative workplace, but if leaders want employees to do their best work, employers must do right by them too. This starts with creating a workplace and culture – whether in person, online or hybrid – that takes every employee’s unique needs into account and where they can be their true selves.