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5 Ways to Boost Women in the Workplace for a More Successful Future

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we reflect on the ways in which women in the workplace create enormous dividends in business, the economy, and the community.

An Equal Future for Women in the Workplace

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, set by U.N. Women, is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”.

At a high level, this theme is energizing and exciting. Women have been working towards this future state for decades. However, on the ground level – this remains very far away. More concerning, the pandemic has created enormous setbacks for women, as there have been entire months in the US, for instance, where only women lost jobs. Not surprisingly, women of color are experiencing nearly double the unemployment rates as those of their white male counterparts.

After decades of painfully slow progress and incredible effort, women are experiencing some of the worst setbacks in the workplace to date. So much that 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workplace altogether due to the enormous stress of extra responsibilities at home and work. Achieving an equal future seems like a fantasy in the wake of a brewing economic crisis for working women.

Women in Leadership Impacts the Bottom Line

McKinsey’s report on Women in the Workplace found that companies see 50% higher profit margins when they have women occupying executive-level roles. However, women only hold 21% of the world’s c-suite positions and only 28% of senior leadership.

Similarly, the United Nations Policy Brief on COVID-19 and Women in Leadership noted that countries that were led by women saw the lowest COVID-19 death rates and the most effective virus containment measures, yet women hold less than 25% of the world’s governing positions.

These are just two of the countless examples demonstrating the success of women in leadership creates enormous dividends for business, the economy, and our community. Loads of research have proven this point, and yet we continue to experience major resistance and now setbacks from the pandemic.

These are just two of the countless examples demonstrating the success of women in leadership creates enormous dividends for business, the economy, and our community.

How to Boost Women into Successful Futures

So, what can we do to return to progress, and even boost it further?

Here are 5 ways we can boost women into successful futures:

#1—Promote Women and Believe in Their Abilities

McKinsey’s study notes that women often have to work twice as hard and be more educated to hold the same leadership positions as their male counterparts, and when they hold those positions, they are asked to continue proving themselves to their male peers. This behavior can be attributed to the bias (whether conscious or not) that women are not as capable of leadership roles as men. Decades of research have shown that women are as capable, and in some cases, more capable of successfully address leadership challenges.

The fact is – women produce incredible results for business – This has been shown in real life and confirmed by numerous research studies. What we need to boost their success is a shift in cultural attitudes. I encourage men in leadership to examine their personal biases. Since men remain the decision-makers for most leadership placements, their self-awareness and allyship to trust female peers and staff is a critical requirement to grow our collective confidence in what we know is true.

#2—Offer Flexible Working Environments

Women are powerful and capable of managing a lot of responsibilities at once, but most often have to prioritize their family duties above work demands. So, when asked to choose between addressing the immediate time-bound need of children, or other dependents, or full-time work – they will most often choose their family and fit in the work in lieu of personal time or wellbeing.

Businesses which offer more flexibility in the workplace are more likely to retain their female staff beyond the pandemic. I encourage managers and leaders to think beyond “hours worked” and to focus on “results produced”. You might find that your business will experience growth when focused on the outcomes while offering your staff the flexibility to take care of their families as well.

#3—Develop Equal Partnerships at Home

I do not feel that this gets covered often enough in “working women” type blogs! We have for sure seen a major shift in culture over the last few decades where men and women have developed more equal partnerships at home. This is something to be celebrated, but we still have a lot of work to do… as evidenced by the economic disparities brought on by COVID. Studies across cultures show that working women continue to do a disproportionate amount of domestic and childcare work in families.

This is the time, now more than ever, for partners to step up their game and grow in their partnership at home. Take turns making dinner, cleaning, and teaching math to your young ones. Taking some of the pressure off women at home will provide more capacity for them in their careers, which as we know will also benefit us all.

Taking some of the pressure off women at home will provide more capacity for them in their careers, which as we know will also benefit us all.

#4—Create a Community of Women Uplifting Women

This is a time and opportunity, now more than ever, for women to support and uplift each other in the workplace. I personally have the pleasure of working with some of the most incredible women! We can create spaces in the business where our voices and ideas are heard. We can encourage one another to keep going and offer a compassionate ear when the load is too heavy or it feels like culture is not moving fast enough. Offer to mentor women younger than you and seek out women mentors who hold positions of power in your company. Women are powerful when they work together, and right now, we need each other.

#5—Include Women in Your Talent Strategy

Simply put, women should be at the forefront of consideration when designing a talent strategy that can face the challenges and opportunities brought on by the pandemic. Using insightful tools to help you mobilize your people can open doors for candidates that you may not have considered before. Solutions like SHL’s Mobilize provide insight on people across your organization to understand their skill set today, as well as their potential for tomorrow. This forward-thinking mindset is a major key to growing a diverse and inclusive leadership bench.

There is so much to do, and the pandemic has created a plethora of roadblocks. If we are all willing to contribute to this cultural shift, then we will see change happen. We must all examine our beliefs and bias to pave the way for a successful future.

Contact us to learn more about how SHL can increase diversity in your workforce.

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Kristina Iniguez

Kristina Iniguez is the former Head of Brand, PR, and External Communication at SHL. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work and ten years of experience leading and developing teams across public, private, and non-profit organizations. She is a creative visionary and strategist who utilizes careful listening and open collaboration to engage audiences in mission-centric organizations. She utilizes relationship-based techniques, like human-centered design, to build communication platforms that reach, educate, and engage key stakeholders. She is passionate about talent development because she believes that people are any organization's greatest asset. The more an organization holistically invests in its employees—the more they will succeed!

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