Often, as the new year rolls in, people proclaim that the new year consists of 365 days of new opportunities, and that is a valid statement. Unfortunately for many women, the new year continues to pose workplace challenges that did not end on December 31st.
Let’s take a look at the new year from a mathematical view.
A typical calendar year is 365 days. The average full-time employee will work approximately 260 of those 365 days, or roughly 71% of the year. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earned 83.1% compared to men’s earnings in 2021. This is down 1% from data collected in 2020.
Looking at this wage differential, women would need to work almost 45 more days a year to earn what men do in a calendar year. Not so much of a happy new year.
So let’s take a better look at what your company can do to better support the women at your company.
Women would need to work almost 45 more days a year to earn what men do in a calendar year.
Women in the workforce are often held to superheroic, unrealistic standards of excellence. They are expected to be stellar employees who work constantly to earn “exceeds expectations” on their performance evaluations. Many do this while also being a logistics coordinator in their home, maintaining their households and providing care to their loved ones.
With these pressures and expectations, it is no surprise that burnout in women is rising faster than in men. The pandemic unfortunately exacerbated these factors. Many women were forced to make hard decisions that have impacted the global business market. Women are leaving the work world at a faster rate than men, and they are also less likely to fill leadership positions.
In October 2022, McKinsey and Company, in partnership with LeanIn.org, released its latest “Women in the Workplace” study. The report is a must-read for any organization. The findings spotlight challenges that organizations must identify and overcome to provide women with the resources for success.
Employers need to be vocal advocates for women in the workplace. They can do this by creating a supportive, mentoring environment. One that invests in opportunities for women to demonstrate their tenacity. This post will provide four key ways, for an organization to support women in the workforce.
1.) Focus on Leadership Opportunities
Women earn more than half of the college and advanced degrees awarded in the United States. Women hold 23% of executive positions, 29% of senior management positions, 37% of manager positions, 42% of professional positions, and 47% of support staff positions globally. Why are there not more women in leadership positions?
Multiple studies have yielded similar results. There is a predominant assumption that women are not interested in leadership roles. Often times, though, leadership and advancement are not discussed with women in employee/supervisor meetings. And unlike men, women are not as likely to apply for a role unless they feel they are completely qualified for it.
Nonlinear Career Paths
Data shows that it is getting harder for women to rejoin the workforce because employers are questioning gaps on women’s resumes. This leads to selecting individuals, often men, who do not have employment gaps. Employers should become open to employment opportunities with women who have nonlinear career paths. This will increase the talent pool dramatically, while also enhancing it with talent that is resilient, determined, and more than capable.
Entry-Level Management Roles
Organizational leaders need to create goals to recruit and promote women on all levels starting with a focus on entry-level management. McKinsey identified that for every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level. As advancement continues, there is still a lack of women in the promotion queue eventually to the point where there are not enough women available for promotion to senior leadership positions.
Jobs posted in an organization’s Applicant Tracking System (ATS) should be gender neutral and evaluated to ensure there is no unconscious bias that implies a job is better suited for a specific gender. Make sure all employment applications use language that is non-discriminatory.
When an organization emphasizes recruitment, retention and promotion of women, it expands their talent pool, It also recognizes highly skilled contributors that personify talent in the workplace. Growing internal talent fosters a commitment between employees and the employer. This results in reduced training costs and quicker time to productivity as talent is already acclimated to the company’s culture. Implementing these changes can help to support women in the work place.
2.) Provide Support Resources
Since March 2021, 28% of women with children under 18 in the household have temporarily or permanently left the workforce to become a primary caregiver to children compared to 10% of men. The cost of childcare is one of the top reasons women leave the workplace. Approximately 55% of families report spending at least $10,000 annually on childcare. Organizations who offer childcare and elder care assistance are more likely to retain women. Providing extended leave time with the ability for the employee to return to a similar role helps eliminate concerns of unemployment.
Women tend to be more involved in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and seek to foster an inclusive nature. McKinsey’s study revealed that approximately 50% of women say their manager regularly encourages respectful behavior on their team, and less than half say their manager shows interest in their career and helps them manage their workload. Organizations need to provide training and resources to managers so they can become stronger leaders instead of managers. Management needs to be cognizant of their team’s needs. Identify where challenges are manifesting and openly discuss internal and external resources to facilitate women’s evolution within their jobs.
Setting weekly or bi-weekly check-ins is a way to strengthen the professional relationship. Open communication with managers helps women convey concerns, proactively identify signs of burnout, and evaluate workload manageability. The past two years have lit the fuse to ignite a population of employees experiencing burnout. Providing managers with the skill set they need to identify ways to motivate, encourage and mentor their teams will benefit everyone. Women seek employers that support the whole employee, at and outside of work.
3.) Resolve Inequalities
Pay transparency increases trust among employees in an organization if men and women are earning parallel wages. This kind of equity shows a commitment to providing fair compensation to the individual regardless of any protected classification and that compensation is based on the responsibilities of the job and tenets of proven success. Pay equity validates that gender is irrelevant; pay is relative to performance and job duties. When a company provides transparency and equity in pay, it is more likely to retain top performers along with keeping and growing women with leadership potential.
Create a work environment that is amicable, not adversarial, towards women. This will continue to support women at work. In the past two years, women have been 1.5 times as likely, compared to men in parallel roles, to leave a job to move to a company that was more committed to DEI initiatives. Ensure that employees understand conscious and unconscious bias, and provide resources to remove bias internally. Gender bias is defined as preferring one gender more than another. Women are often subject to various microaggressions such as being interrupted in meetings and decisions being questioned.
Women of color, disabled women, and LGBTQ+ individuals are more susceptible to being the recipient of micro-aggressions. Discrimination impedes productivity and prevents employees from demonstrating their full potential. Communicate and uphold policies that exclaim that discrimination will not be tolerated.
When teammates can appreciate others’ unique characteristics and talents, the work environment becomes more positive and productive resulting in an employer brand that radiates “this is the best place to work”. Eliminating discrimination will also aid in supporting women at work.
Wearing that superhero cape can be daunting. When an organization instills a flexible work environment, the organization empowers employees to take ownership of tasks and responsibilities. It also shows that they trust that the work can and will be done. Remote work is not just about removing commute times and providing convenience. McKinsey’s study showed that women who work remotely for part of their work schedule experience fewer micro-aggressions and higher levels of psychological safety.
According to Forbes, psychological safety is the ability to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences of self-image, status or career. They feel more comfortable doing their tasks and can complete responsibilities. They don’t need to look over their shoulder or validate their decisions compared to working in-person.
Unfortunately, women who work remotely are at higher risk to be overlooked for promotions and to receive public praise for success. Mentorships are proven means to help employees grow professionally. These and are more often provided to onsite employees as compared to virtual employees. Being remote should not eliminate this professional development opportunity. Virtual female employees should have equal opportunity to establish and maintain professional mentorships.
Remote women employees have a higher risk of not receiving proper accolades for successful results. This is because of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. Performance reviews are often a factor in evaluating current talent for promotions. At performance evaluation time, it is essential that tasks and results are the items measured – not work location and gender. If managers favor onsite employees’ work compared to remote work, managers are succumbing to bias.
As the new year commences, organizations need to evaluate their strategies in place to assist women in the workforce. Companies that take a genuine interest in the professional development of the women work population will exude success through successful recruitment and higher retention of contributing talent to experience heightened productivity. Women seek a work environment that fuels their internal fire for their ambition. Let this fire burn!
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