The Covid-19 pandemic has annihilated the global economy and disproportionately impacted working women. Despite an abundance of research confirming that companies are more profitable with more women in the C-suite, there is still a gender gap in the vast majority of companies. Women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline, with more men hired for entry-level positions and representation declining further at every successive step.
Diversity is the key to success when it comes to hiring the right people. This statement rings even more true in light of the current economic crisis, as over 140,000 women lost their jobs in December in the wake of the pandemic. This is a highly disproportionate number compared to their male counterparts. To counteract this issue, many high-profile politicians and business insiders are calling out for more inclusive policies. For instance, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani addressed President Joe Biden with a plea of giving more substantial monthly stimulus checks to moms to help deal with the extreme burnout they feel.
It has now become a moral and strategic imperative to empower and promote women in the workplace. Also, as noted in an Entrepreneur article, women “represent the largest market opportunity in the world,” as they are “fast becoming prominent creators of wealth and it is expected that they will control 75% of all household spending by 2028.” It is crucial to provide women with incentives to consider joining your company — and, more importantly, to remain with you in the long run. Here are five actions your company can take to retain women today.
1. Facilitate equal opportunities and pay. Although we are in the age of progress, women are still treated unfavorably in many professional environments. They do not earn as much money as men in the same positions covering the same tasks. Moreover, many women get discriminated against for being pregnant. In addition to that, women are still not getting promoted to high-profile roles at the same rate as men. If you want to entice women to stay on, you should consider creating a work environment where equal opportunity is a tangible reality. All employees — regardless of gender, orientation or ethnicity — should enjoy equal opportunities and the chance to succeed. We must ensure organizations practice pay equality and that it’s supported by a policy of transparency.
2. Educate your employees on ethical standards and conduct. Over the past few years, many people have become more aware of how women might be mistreated on the job. The many stories that came to light following the #MeToo movements aren’t just about high-profile celebrities and scandals. This is an issue that has affected millions of women all over the world. To retain more women in your company, you must facilitate positive relationships among your teams. Educate your staff on ethical standards and conduct, and make sure they understand that harassing women on the job will not be tolerated. The key here is not to point the finger and blame; it’s all about starting a conversation and keeping it going for the benefit of everyone involved. Additionally, organizations need to revisit and reassess their policies regularly to see if they meet everyone’s needs today.
3. Create an inclusive and safe work environment. Women want to feel like they can trust their professional environment. Companies need to provide a safe, viable and comfortable space where employees can do their job and fulfill their tasks without any unnecessary stress. In recent months, I’ve seen increasing attention on diversity alone. Still, as Glassdoor notes, “diversity without inclusion is a recipe for failure,” and “women in STEM who don’t feel supported will be less likely to stay at the company long-term after they’ve been hired.” As a CIO, it is my responsibility to ensure my teams feel that they matter and belong and are empowered to make decisions.
4. Create flexible work schedules. We all deserve to have a healthy work-life balance, and having flexible work schedules can benefit women and everyone in the company. When a company introduces flexible schedules, it sends a message that says: “I trust you, and I give you authority over your work.” It would be a shame to come out of this pandemic and not realize that if we could function remotely, we can do it moving forward as needed. Companies need to invest in their employees’ happiness and well-being and develop an organizational culture that makes work-life balance a reality, not only an expectation.
5. Encourage female leadership and mentorship. Companies can also encourage women to pursue leadership roles. Having women in power could be a key indicator that your company policies work for all of your employees and not just for some. The presence of a woman in a “high place” within a company’s hierarchy can be a very encouraging signal for other women who might consider pursuing a career at your company. Seeing a woman in a leadership role might inspire women and help you retain top female talent since they can see a future working with you. As software company River noted: “Mentoring can provide emerging leaders with support from mentors who are experienced leaders and experts in their fields.”
Women are still responsible for most child care and household duties despite the slow cultural shift we’ve seen in recent years. Offering flexible work options, mentorship, training and equal pay are all critical to attracting and retaining female tech talent. We all know that women are good for business, and this list of concrete steps you can take to retain women can help you get started, but it is not an all-inclusive list.
Women in STEM are already beating the odds, and there is no need to make things even harder for them in an environment that is not inclusive and doesn’t recognize their contributions. Let’s #ChooseToChallenge all organizational leaders to do their part in pushing more women in leadership roles and the C-suite.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and has been republished with permission