6 Ways To Make Your Workplace Women-Friendly
It is not uncommon to see women breaking glass ceilings, leading companies and striving hard to become ‘equal’ to men. But are women equal to men? Is this fight for equality justified in the first place, given that men and women are fundamentally different – biologically and emotionally? Instead of celebrating the differences or building on them, women are compared, often declared incompetent and pushed aside.
Studies from McKinsey show that our corporate culture is intrinsically biased against women – yes, it is built into the system.
The culture where dominance is equated with leadership: Blame it on evolutionary anthropology but our brain often mistakes traits like assertiveness, confidence and decisiveness for leadership. An analysis of 95 studies on leadership shows that these factors do not predict effective leadership. Many women don’t willingly take up a dominant role and are therefore sidelined for a leadership position. Here are some other aspects of corporate culture that prevent most women from pursuing fulfilling careers.
How Corporate Culture Is Biased Against Women
Make note of the following aspects of a work culture that aren't in favour of women.
1. A culture that forces you to put work above everything else
Most organisations have a straightforward rule that says that women can receive the same opportunities and perks as men if they put in the same commitment at the workplace. It is conveniently ignored that women are ‘expected’ to juggle their personal and professional lives, and have to make a considerable contribution to the household. Additionally, the higher levels of empathy and social intelligence that women bring to the table aren’t considered to be favourable traits.
2. A culture where women aren’t their own advocates
It is disheartening to see that women don’t tend to support a female colleague who gets promoted to a leadership position. The same goes for men too, but they don’t fight on the fringes. The fact that women don’t support each other makes it a natural ‘divide and rule’ game for men.
3. A culture of gender discrimination
The explosion of campaigns like #MeToo shows that almost every woman who has ever stepped out of home to work has experienced some form of gender discrimination. The root lies in the social expectations that are deeply ingrained into the society. Men have been thought to be breadwinners while women were perceived to be homemakers with the job of cooking, cleaning and tending to children. So when women started claiming their place at the office table, people just did not know how to handle things. Several of them inadvertently create hostile environments for women that force them to give up on their careers after marriage and maternity.
The idea to make the workplace conducive to women is not just beneficial for them, but for the company too. Women get to maintain their financial independence while caring for their family while businesses gain loyal, talented employees who can contribute to their growth and success. Here are five ways to do it.
6 Ways To Promote A Women-Friendly Workplace
Let’s look at a few ways to ensure a women-friendly workplace.
1. Start At The Recruitment Point
When you track essential exam results for schools and colleges over the years, you’ll find that women have a consistently better record as compared to men. Why these same women don’t become corporate leaders is a mystery that companies should be willing to take up. Some industries like tech have a higher imbalance than other sectors. The only way to overcome this issue is by actively recruiting women. While it is true that the best ‘person’ gets the job, personal biases often creep into recruitment too. Ensure that you have policies in place to mandatorily hire a set number of women employees, especially during bulk recruitment campaigns.
2. Actively Promote Women
Many women have a general frustrating story to narrate. They don’t get heard. They complain that they suggest an idea at a meeting which goes unheard and 15 mins later when a man suggests the same approach, he is smothered with accolades. The reality is that women need to pick themselves and actively support each other for the whole community to be heard. If one woman has made a suggestion, other women should acknowledge and appreciate it while making their own point. In fact, it is important to reward them for their contribution by handing over mementoes and trophies as unique as themselves.
3. Have Anti-Harassment Policies In Place
If a woman in your company is ever a victim of harassment, she’ll need your complete support just to make herself heard. It isn’t an easy task unless there are policies in place to find the culprit and dole out a punishment. As Oprah rightly said during the Golden Globes awards this year, “Women silently bore the harassment because they had mouths to feed and bills to pay”. If they spoke out, they could be harassed by making the work challenging, withholding promotions and threatening with lousy performance reviews. The highest authorities in the company need to have zero tolerance to such practices. Only then will it percolate down to the execution level.
4. Support Professional Development
Most women juggle multiple full-time jobs. They are mothers, homemakers and professionals working full time. It isn’t easy to take time out to take up a professional course for career enhancement. Which is why companies supporting women should help them gain access to skill improving classes during work hours that can move their careers forward.
5. Support Women After Marriage And Maternity
Childbirth is a physically, mentally and emotionally testing experience for a woman. A new mother never gets rest, continually puts her baby over her own needs and is stressed with little or no sleep. After three months of something that seems like conquering Everest every day, these sleep-deprived women are expected to come back to work and join where they left off. They are often forced to forsake feeding their children because the workplace is too far off. It is a challenging time for women and companies need to ensure they give women a fighting chance. A generous paid maternity leave, flexible work hours, options to work from home and a family-friendly workplace can be put together to ensure these women can cope with all that’s on their plate.
6. Welcome Them
You could also welcome new mothers back to the office with unique birth announcement plaques and such other keepsakes. This is a way to communicate that you are thrilled to have them back at the workplace and accept them with their new responsibilities.
While it remains to be seen if women will ever be treated equally to men, it is possible to ensure that women face no discrimination at the workplace and are given the opportunity to perform to their fullest potential.