The year 2020 saw significant progress in the realm of social justice and civil rights. The #MeToo movement broke immense ground in terms of altering social perception, awareness, and responses. Several years later, the movement is still strong. Governments, businesses, and educational institutes all over the US are making efforts to make workplaces safer for women. Many are using broad (but strict) anti-harassment laws as well as sexual harassment prevention training and workshops to improve cultural awareness. We live in an age in which harassment and misogyny in the workplace (or any place else, for that matter) is not tolerated or acceptable.
Why and How Can Employer’s Empower Women Workers
Simply protecting women in the workplace may not always be enough to give them the tools they need to rise above outdated norms, stereotypes, and downright nasty practices. The ASA’s THRIVE 2020: Elevating and Empowering Women in Staffing addressed this particular issue in November of last year. Women have historically been the victim of internalized bias and sexism in a significant number of industries. As a result, the gender pay gap has proven to be a significant challenge, particularly in the face of mounting intolerance for unfair hiring practices or exploiting vulnerable workers.
However, while some employers may need to reexamine their policies for sexism, others may simply be outmoded. Remember: social change has a way of rapidly transforming workplaces. It is not unreasonable to assume some employers simply need to update their understanding of their workforce. Particularly concerning vulnerable segments, such as women, POC, and minority workers. There is also a need to pay attention to vulnerable employment types, such as seasonal, temp, and contract-to-hire workers. In this context, there are five key ways to empower and elevate women workers in your workforce and offer them a safe and unbiased employment opportunity. These include:
Stamp Out Biased Thinking
Younger individuals, whether female or not, tend to have a zero-tolerance approach to sexism and gender bias in general. In the workplace, these individuals expect an environment free of these things. What may have passed for “jokes” in the 1980s are now called out for what they are: sexism. In most cases, female employees encounter sexism in less overt ways. Unfortunately, this bias can often be present, even in your workplace.
As an employer, you have both the moral and legal obligation to offer a safe, discrimination-free workplace. This responsibility applies to all categories of organizations from hospitals to engineering staffing agencies to manufacturing firms. Attack the problem and lead from the front. Seeing higher management figures actively involved in stamping out gender bias won’t just discourage the thinking, but also empower women.
Encourage Women in Leadership Roles
Take a look at your C-level executives. Do you see gender diversity in your VPs, SVPs, and so on? Having women in key leadership positions has an impact on several levels. For one thing, women can bring unique perspectives into many aspects of business, from your company culture to business goal setting to operational efficiency. It is also a concrete way of showing you recognize and appreciate talent without bias towards other employees in your workforce. Most importantly, it offers an example or role model for other female workers what to aspire to. Knowing that the obstacles between them and a key leadership role are substantially lowered, you can expect to motivate women workers, and thereby increase your business’ bottom line.
Offer Opportunities To Build Confidence
Not all misogyny exists outside the female realm. Generations of sexism have ingrained certain traits in women that impact their ability to realize their full potential. However, the best way to get around this obstacle is to offer confidence-building opportunities to female workers. Public speaking opportunities often prove to be effective in most circumstances. For one thing, it offers women the opportunity to develop the confidence needed to address (and even inspire) large audiences. For another, it allows them to develop as motivated workers based on the confidence and thrill of representing their employer at events, conventions, and business meetings. This is why today many IT staffing agencies prefer women when sourcing for PR and spokesperson roles.
Support Their Learning and Growth
Talent acquisition strategies are a key part of any HR function. But so are talent retention efforts. If you are unable to retain the employee, the effort in acquiring them is all in vain. Many businesses find that offering learning and growth opportunities help in retaining employees for the long term. This can be applied with a narrower focus specific to women. Employers need to assess the skills profiles of women workers, particularly those that show promise for leadership roles. By offering opportunities to enrich and expand their skill set, you also offer your women workers the necessary tools they need for long-term career growth.
Work on Bridging the Gender Pay Gap
In general, businesses need to strive for equal pay opportunities wherever they can. Women have been fighting for fair pay and equal opportunities for a very, very long time. It may be time for employers to finally start showing support for this cause. The idea that men work harder and should be paid more than women is fairly obsolete in the modern world.
In fact, women often have much more work to do, both inside and outside the workplace. A woman may work as a full-time mortgage recruiter, but if she has a family, she may still generally expected to manage things at home as well. There could be a case for actually compensating women for their unpaid labor, perhaps higher than the average compensation for a man in the same role. However, at the very least, employers need to start making comprehensive efforts to bridge the gender pay gap.