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How To Support Women in The Workplace - as a Leader and as a Colleague

Although our country is moving toward more relaxed protocols around Covid-19 (e.g. the end of mask mandates and social distancing), the effects of the pandemic are far from over, and, unsurprisingly, gender-based inequalities in the workplace have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Women are experiencing higher levels of unpaid work and layoffs, have borne the brunt of the responsibilities for child rearing and managing the home during the pandemic (see: home schooling), and have faced reversals in their vital rights (especially related to bodily autonomy).

Even before Covid-19, women faced unfavorable and inequitable conditions in the workplace, and it is far past time we did something to rectify this inequity.

March 8th represents Women’s Equality Day so here are some ways you can support women and start building a foundation for a more equitable workplace as a leader today:

Start with awareness. It’s difficult to enact positive change if you don’t know what needs fixed – and it can be difficult to get people on board with these changes if they don’t know why they’re happening. Encourage dialogue during work hours about the inequities that women face in the workplace – from gender bias, to being overlooked for the value they provide, being interrupted more often than men, being given less time to speak in meetings, being paid less for the same work (which gets even worse for BIPOC women).

Put women in decision-making roles. Women make up over 50% of the workforce, but only account for 21% of leadership roles in the U.S. and only 4% of CEOs. When half of your population, workforce, customers, clients, and partners are women, you should absolutely be including them in your decision-making process and giving them a voice in these discussions.

Offer inclusive benefits and flexibility aimed at supporting working parents. We already know that women are disproportionately responsible for household chores and childcare, so offering gender-inclusive and family-friendly benefits and other policies and practices can make a huge difference for women in the workplace. One way to do this is to offer flexible hours and working conditions such as hybrid, work from home, or a compressed work week.

Provide mentorship, coaching, and training programs meant to uplift women. Providing clear and accessible paths for mentorship and growth within your company is key to uplifting women and creating a more equitable and representative leadership team.

Review the data. Are ALL women* in your organization paid the same as men who are doing the same work? Are ALL women given the same opportunities to move up and earn promotions? Data shows that men are often judged on their potential to do a job successfully, while women are judged based on past performance only – is that true within your organization? If so, how can you undo this system and build a process that is truly equitable?

Even if you aren’t a leader or manager, you can still support your female colleagues. Here are some tips to get you started:

Celebrate the accomplishments of women at work. Women are less likely to brag about their achievements than their male counterparts due to often being penalized for self-promotion and are less likely to be recognized or rewarded for their work. Making a point to call out the successes and accomplishments of women on your team and creating an environment that values the contributions of women and promotes women supporting women can be very impactful and lead to greater satisfaction for female employees.

Offer advice & encouragement. You don’t have to be a manager or an official mentor to offer advice to your female colleagues. If you see a woman struggling with something – work-related or not – offering advice or even just a listening ear can be hugely impactful and will help create a more collaborative and supportive environment for all people.

Call out bias and discrimination when you see it. Maybe you’re in an all-hands meeting when a woman is interrupted while she’s speaking. Simply saying, “ [Interrupter] I don’t think you meant to cut of [woman], but it didn’t seem like she was finished speaking – [woman], I’d like to hear the rest of your comment / question / idea” can bring attention to the unfair default practices in a workplace and allow more time and space for women to contribute.

*Celebrating & supporting women in the workplace is not only for white women. Your policies and practices must support all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other social identifier.

If you’re not sure how to address existing inequities in your company, contact Level for a brainstorming discussion and customized roadmap for improving your DEIB practices.

For more tips on supporting women in the workplace, check out these articles from Lean In, Forbes, and INC.

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