Equality in the Workplace: 14 Ways to Improve Things and How to Get Started

Is Your Workplace Holding Women Back? How to Help Women Succeed at Work

In Getting to Equal 2018, a survey of more than 22,000 working men and women, Accenture (NYSE: ACN) identified 40 factors that influence women’s advancement in the workplace. When these 40 factors are present, the study found, women are four times as likely to reach executive levels in the workplace. That means the current average ratio of 34 female managers for every 100 male managers could accelerate to a ratio of 84 female managers for every 100 male managers. In addition, women’s pay could increase by an average of 51 percent — boosting the whole economy.

But that’s not all. The study also found in companies where the 40 factors are present, men are 23 percent more likely to advance to manager level and beyond. As the report puts it, “When she rises, we all rise.”

How to Help Women Succeed at Work

Accenture breaks the 40 factors down into three categories: bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment. Of the 40, they identified 14 that are most important in advancing women in the workforce.

Bold Leadership

1. Gender diversity is a priority for management. Look around your business. If all your managers or department heads are men, it’s time to commit to making some changes.

2. A diversity target or goal is shared outside the organization. In addition to sharing your diversity goals with your employees, let the outside world know. For example, your website could emphasize that your company values diversity and follows inclusive hiring and management practices.

3. The organization clearly states gender pay-gap goals and ambitions. Is there a gender pay gap in your workplace? I don’t have to tell you how toxic it can be when employees in a small company find this out. If this is the case, take steps to improve the situation.

Comprehensive Action

4. Progress has been made in attracting, retaining and advancing women. You’ll need to start documenting your efforts and keeping track of your results.

5. The company has a women’s network. Your company may not be big enough to create a “network” of female employees, but how about providing mentoring to female employees, or paying their membership fees for a women’s networking group relevant to your industry?

6. The company’s women’s network is open to men. Provide the same opportunities to male employees—for example, mentoring, membership and industry networking groups—as you do to women. It will benefit your company as a whole.

7. Men are encouraged to take parental leave. The study found that taking maternity leave tends to hold women back from advancing in their careers. However, when men at the same company can and do take paternity leave, taking maternity leave has no negative impact on women’s careers at all.

An Empowering Environment

8. Employees have never been asked to change their appearance to conform to company culture. It’s OK to institute dress codes or even have uniforms depending on your industry. But make sure you aren’t unnecessarily stifling employees’ ability to express themselves.

9. Employees have the freedom to be creative and innovative. Give employees as much autonomy as their jobs allow, and show them that you trust them.

10. Virtual/remote working is widely available and is common practice. Remote work has many benefits — not only to employees, but also to your business. One of the most valuable is the ability to keep your company running if, for some reason, you can’t get to your location.

11. Employees can work from home on a day when they have a personal commitment. See above.

12. The organization provides training to keep its employees’ skills relevant. Take advantage of training provided by your industry associations, online courses or webinars, or local trade school/community college programs. Enlist your own employees to cross-train each other, too.

13. Employees can avoid overseas or long-distance travel via virtual meetings. Reducing business travel as much as possible not only means happier employees, but also saves your company money.

14. Employees are comfortable reporting sex discrimination/sexual harassment incident(s) to the company. Every business, no matter how small, should have a policy against sexual harassment and take it seriously.

While the Accenture study focused on large, multinational corporations, all the information above is just as relevant to small businesses. Is your small business providing what women need to get ahead?

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

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