In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, we decided to offer some thoughts on supporting women in the workplace. Think about how you would answer this question: Are women equally included, respected, and valued in this workplace? Now think about how three different women in your company might answer the same question… Generally speaking, we’ve come a long way in supporting women in the workplace. Yet, the events of the past year have clearly demonstrated that there’s much progress still to be made. Your company can take a leading role in this effort.
Most employers have good intentions when it comes to equality in the workplace, and proudly state that they are Equal Opportunity Employers. As consultants, we are finding that many interpersonal conflicts and employee relations issues, including those stemming from gender inequality, could have been de-escalated or avoided if the company had implemented an HR strategy that went beyond equality and diversity, to embrace the concept of inclusion.
Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) defines inclusion as:
“the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization's success.”
This definition brings us to our three ways to support women in the workplace:
1. Realize that your company may not be as inclusive as you think.
Here’s a fun look at a woman’s experience in the workplace that might help to frame this topic. The question is: How would we know if our company has truly achieved the kind of work environment described by SHRM, above? You might want to consider asking the women who work in your company, or have worked there in the past. If a survey is conducted in an anonymous, safe fashion, you might be surprised at the answers to questions like, “Are all individuals treated fairly and respectfully? Do women have equal access to opportunities and resources? Are they able to fully contribute to the company’s success? Honest, genuine inquiry is a great first step.
2. Celebrate This Year’s International Women’s Day Theme: “Balance is Better”
International Women’s Day is a day of recognition and initiative. Use this occasion to plan an International Women’s Day event, or develop fun, approachable ways to create a more inclusive culture. Ask your employees for ideas, develop a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, or check out some of the event’s past best practice winners. International Women’s Day is just a date on the calendar unless you celebrate it and bring it to life in your workplace.
3. Join NextPlay and become a mentor.
NextPlay is a tech platform aimed at cultivating innovation, exchanging knowledge, and increasing retention. Through NextPlay you can mentor others in your business field and/or demographic group, offering them the benefit of your valuable experience. If you are a successful female professional, chances are you have many career and life skills to offer newer or younger professionals. By sharing this important knowledge, you are taking a proactive step towards creating a workplace of greater inclusion for future generations.
Many companies fall into the trap of overestimating the effectiveness of their equal opportunity and diversity efforts. Knowing where your company stands, measuring inclusion, and developing fun, proactive programs are important steps in offering the best employee experience to women (and all demographic groups).
The HR Manager consultants are available to assist you with your training efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in your organization. Should you need any assistance, please feel free to reach out.