Many businesses pay lip service to supporting women in the workplace, but truly exceptional work environments strive to be innovative in the ways they help to foster gender equality. True equality comes not from pretending that all employees are the same and have the same opportunities, but rather from listening to the individual needs of your diverse team members and identifying opportunities for your company culture to improve.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, here are some things you can do in the office to help women succeed.
Before you jump into action, the best thing you can do to help support the women in your office is give them the opportunity to express their own needs. While you may assume that gender equality is not an issue in your company culture, the women on your team may have plenty of constructive feedback to offer when given the chance. Setting up an anonymous forum for people — not just women — to express their dissatisfaction with company culture will make for a happier and more productive workplace environment for everyone. If you’re not listening to the people on your team, you are severely limiting your ability to improve.
- Make a plan.
Once you’ve take into account the feedback from your team, some of which may be challenging or unpleasant, the next thing to do is make a logical and reasonable plan. Some fixes may be easy. For instance, if a new mother in your office needs a private place to pump breast milk, designating a comfortable and private area will help to support her through this exciting life change.
Some feedback may be more difficult to address, especially feedback that deals with accidental lapses in company culture. If the women in your office feel as if they are being talked over in meetings, for example, this problem may seem difficult to solve. Instead of encouraging women to speak up, or chastising men for talking over them, consider implementing new meeting protocol altogether. Going around in a circle and encouraging everyone to share feedback might be a more effective and productive model than casual, unstructured conversation.
Whatever solutions you come up with, remember that new goals must regularly be revisited and reevaluated in order for them to be successful. Schedule benchmarks for when you will next check up on how you are progressing on accomplishing your goals. Improving company culture is a constant process.
- Encourage mentorship.
Mentorship is a productive way to help turn your employees into successful business women. Encourage mentorship opportunities between women at different stages of their careers. Often, it is difficult for employees in entry-level positions to imagine themselves moving up in the ranks, as talking about career trajectories can sometimes seem taboo. Mentorship provides a useful opportunity for women at different career stages to discuss professional development opportunities. Hosting an event like a roundtable discussion or forming a women’s organization within your company can help women in your organization to see their potential, and learn new ways to move up professionally.
- Make it a priority every day.
Whether you’re striving to improve on gender issues, workplace diversity, or opportunities for LGBT employees, it is important to realize that improvement is a process that needs to be constantly revisited.
Though International Women’s Day is an important day to call attention to women in the workplace, truly supporting women means making these values a priority in your company culture every day of the year. Demonstrate your commitment to women’s professional success by supporting female-oriented charities, hosting female-oriented professional development events, and (most importantly) listening to the needs of the women in your organization year round.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, take these ideas into consideration. For more information about supporting the women in your company, check out Café Quill’s post on productivity tips and tools for women in business.