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Women in the Workplace: How Employers Can #BreakTheBias

Quick Look: While some progress has been made for working women, there remains plenty of room for improvement. The pandemic has caused many women to experience burnout at work, and women of color in particular are losing representation within the workforce. Luckily, there are several ways employers can help #BreakTheBias toward women in the workplace, on International Women’s Day and beyond.

Happy International Women’s Day! This holiday takes place annually on March 8, and is intended to be a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Incredibly, the first International Women’s Day took place in 1911 and was supported by over a million people. Today, let’s explore how employers can support women in the workplace and #BreakTheBias in 2022 – and for years to come.

About International Women’s Day 2022

Each year International Women’s Day features a different theme, and 2022’s is #BreakTheBias.

To better understand this theme, consider the following passage from the International Women’s Day website:

Imagine a gender equal world.

A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.

A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

Together we can forge women’s equality.

Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Women in the workplace

International Women’s Day has several missions, one of which is to, “forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated.” Before we dive into how employers can tackle this, let’s first review what the workplace is like for women today.

The latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey – which includes data from 65,000 diverse women in 423 organizations – found that:

  • In 2020, women’s representation improved across all levels of the corporate pipeline.
  • Promotions at the first step up to manager are not equitable.
  • Women of color lost representation at every level, and only 4% of C-suite leaders are women of color.
  • One-in-three women have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce this year.
  • Four-in-ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs.
  • For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted.
  • Women leaders spend more time than men on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts that fall outside their official job responsibilities, like recruiting underrepresented employees – and women in senior-level roles are twice as likely as senior-level men to dedicate time to DEI tasks at least weekly.

Furthermore, according to Pew Research:

  • In 2020, women earned 84% of what men did.
  • Four-in-ten working women say they’ve experienced gender discrimination at work, compared with about two-in-ten men.
  • One-in-four employed women say they earn less than a man who was doing the same job.

How can employers #BreakTheBias?

While some progress has been made for women in the workplace, so much more lies ahead. International Women’s Day is the biggest employee engagement day of the year, but employers can honor the holiday and make a difference in women’s lives every day in several ways.

Embrace DEI

The first step toward addressing inequity is identifying it. Creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace isn’t a one-time task companies can check off a to-do list – it’s an ongoing journey. If your business doesn’t already have one, consider establishing a DEI committee. Leveraging a workforce management software, like ExtensisHR’s DEI Dashboard, can help you monitor progress and outcomes from DEI initiatives by evaluating hires from previous years, and providing real-time data regarding pay equity, salary trends across both race and gender demographics, employee turnover, promotions, and more.

Start at the top

It’s important that change is supported and communicated from top leadership in your organization. Encourage executive leadership to communicate their commitment to gender equality by discussing the company’s DEI efforts in town halls, annual kickoff meetings, quarterly business reviews, and more.

Include women at every level

From job candidates to C-suite executives, it’s imperative to involve women in every level of your business.

When it comes to recruiting, human resources departments can build a hiring pipeline that includes women for every career level, from entry-level to executive-level positions. Similarly, leadership should proactively confirm that women are included in every department within the organization.

Provide flexibility

An alarming amount of women in the workplace are experiencing burnout – according to Gallup, an astonishing 34% of women report always or very often feeling burned out at work. The pandemic has caused approximately 2 million women to consider leaving the workforce, as increasing workloads both at work and at home become too much to bear.

Employers can show they understand and accommodate a healthier work-life balance by providing flexibility, whether it’s through adjustable work hours, the choice to work remote or on a hybrid schedule, or the opportunity to change from full-time to part-time work.

Encourage collaboration

Collaboration is the key to the success of women in the workplace. For women in any role, connecting with a female mentor can be worth its weight in gold. Employers can consider offering mentorships both within and across different departments. It’s beneficial for women employees to tap into the knowledge and experience of those who came before them, even if that mentorship is unofficial or even comes from outside the company. Additionally, businesses can set newly hired women up for success by involving them in virtual speed networking sessions where they can connect and create relationships with leadership.

Collaboration can also come in the form of support groups. In addition to the communication methods outlined above, businesses can launch an internal women’s support group, where female workers meet regularly, host special guests, share experiences from their personal and professional lives, and more.

Offer two-way communication

Prioritizing DEI initiatives, including women in a variety of departments and career levels, and offering work-life balance flexibility is important – but just as imperative is the need for those women to be heard.

Businesses should establish formal channels for women (and all employees) to report any incidents of bias. These channels should be anonymous and could include a tip box on the company intranet, a telephone hotline, or an email or text helpline. To ensure your workforce is aware of and comfortable with using these tools, leadership should encourage employees to speak up and advocate for themselves (and others).

Leverage your PEO’s resources

Making your workplace more diverse, equitable, and inclusive is a worthwhile (albeit complex and long-term) journey. Luckily, you’re not alone.

When you partner with a professional employer organization (PEO) like ExtensisHR, you receive access to a dedicated HR Manager who can act as your sounding board for your DEI initiatives, a DEI Dashboard full of actionable, real-time data to help you make informed decisions, a team of readily available risk and compliance experts – and much more.

Are you ready to #BreakTheBias against women in your workplace? Contact the experts at ExtensisHR today.

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