Despite all the talk that’s been circulating in the last few years about closing the gender gap, not a lot has really changed for women and girls in American society. Women are still not treated equally in many situations—especially in the workplace.
Female employees have so much to offer, but they also face challenges that their male colleagues simply don’t have to worry about. Managers need to recognize this and consciously offer support that helps to break down these barriers and allow women to reach their full potential in the office.
Not sure how to make that happen? Here are some tips for getting started.
Now's the Time for Change
In political circles, the number of female leaders is on the rise. However, there’s still much work to be done in promoting fair gender representation across all professional fields. In many companies, women aren’t fairly represented in management roles and up.
At the executive level, many companies have few, if any women involved in strategy or decision-making. Women climbing the corporate ladder are often made to feel unwelcome in subtle ways, or simply aren’t given the opportunity to show that they can do.
Companies need to understand that now is the time to make a change. Women deserve to be treated equally and they bring a lot to the table. Not only does hiring women help with innovation, company culture, and other benefits that improve long-term growth, but it also helps the company’s bottom line.
Gearing up for Change
Wise managers support women in the office and help them to become successful. But if empowering female employees is a new initiative, where do you start? To gear up for change, think of the tools your female employees will need to succeed.
What skills will they need? Sponsor their education and allow them to pursue relevant certifications and attend classes. This investment will pay off both in enhanced productivity and in helping to encourage loyalty. People are much more likely to stay with a company long-term if the company is invested in their success.
Women in your company also need to feel empowered to advocate for themselves. If they don’t feel comfortable asking for a raise when they deserve it or they’re never willing to say no to a project, then they may not get very far. You need to begin a cultural shift and ensure that men and women are not held to different standards or judged for asking for what they want.
A Fresh, New Perspective
It may seem obvious, but a fresh, new perspective starts with thinking of women as people instead of women. Think about your recent behavior to uncover any unconscious biases you may be holding onto. To create change, you need to encourage female employees’ careers in the same way as men’s.
Ask for ideas from all your employees. Mention internal job openings to women who might be a good fit for these positions and help female employees build their careers. Being a mentor and an advocate is often the best way to support women in the workplace.
It’s also important to create a culture of truth. Don’t perpetuate or tolerate narratives that take away from women’s accomplishments in the workplace. These narratives are designed to confuse, pull attention away from real problems women are facing at work, and spread misinformation that only serves to damage female employees and downplay their contributions.
The Time for Equality is Now
We’ve been talking about women’s equality for decades. But even as more and more women take on the responsibility of fully supporting their households (which 40% of women who have children under the age of 18 do), true equality has not become a reality. Marches, strikes, and national initiatives have done very little to change the life in America for women on an everyday basis.
Many women have to endure sexism in the office and face an uphill battle for recognition at work, despite their qualifications and experience. They’re often paid less, passed over for promotions, and judged by impossible standards. It’s time to break that cycle.
The time for equality is now, and it starts at the office. Employers can help by making shifts that encourage and empower women to thrive and grow in their organizational roles. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also benefits everyone—a true win-win for businesses in the 21st century.