As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we want to stress not only the importance of regularly celebrating and acknowledging trailblazing women, but to also encourage everyone to continue to truly work towards equality. Unfortunately, a lot of celebration around Women's History Month ends up being lip service, with many groups failing to act on their good intentions. This is an especially dangerous pitfall for companies, as they are missing out on a valuable opportunity to increase workplace diversity and inclusivity. Performative gestures are easily spotted, so it also signals to their clients and customers that they aren't serious about supporting women in the workplace.
Following up on intentions with action is necessary. Women have been steadily increasing their power and presence in the workplace, but Covid-19 has reversed several years of progress. Now, more than ever, it’s important that your company’s policies support and advance women in the workplace. During this Women’s History month and beyond, there are a few main steps that your company can take to ensure activism is impactful, not performative. Some of these strategies are general and some are targeted at supporting women during the Covid-19 pandemic, but all of them are important.
Support working parents
In general, most unpaid care work is done by women. To support their female/femme employees, companies should provide key benefits, including flexible work arrangements, childcare options, paid sick and emergency leave, and equal maternity and paternity leave. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the workload of many working mothers, but it has also introduced more flexibility into the workplace. Companies can ensure that their employees feel supported by highlighting their benefits and creating a culture of understanding and adaptability
Make space for women’s’ voices
Pay and benefits are important, but creating an inclusive work culture for women goes beyond equal monetary benefits. Companies must create room for women to be heard in meetings, support women-to-women mentorship programs, and ensure that they feel validated and heard when they speak up about sexism or harassment. Likewise, creating initiatives that help women achieve leadership roles is key, as the gender gap is most glaring at the executive level.
Support women-focused employee resource groups
These groups can serve as a place for working women to turn when they face hardships at work. Creating a network of women mentors and mentees allows women to seek advice and help from other women, strengthening bonds and creating a space for women to feel heard.
Past research has found that employees feel more secure when they are involved in employee resource groups with others who have the same challenges and fears.
Include women in important decisions and influential positions
Many studies have found that diversity in the workplace results in high productivity, creativity, and better decision making. Yet, women are still a minority in leadership roles across both the private and public sectors. It’s crucial that women are represented in key decision making, especially during times of high-stakes choices and rapid change, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Women’s voices and viewpoints need to be heard when making decisions, and their interests should be reflected in key policies.
These steps detail important ways that companies can support their women and femme employees, but this support must not end when Women’s History Month ends. The fight for gender equality in the workplace is not over, and intentional efforts towards equality are needed every day. Companies must also be aware of intersectionality and should provide space and support for employees who belong to several underrepresented groups. By recognizing the challenges women face in the workplace and taking steps to mitigate those hurdles, companies can help their employees advance and succeed.