4 prominent women leaders share what they really want from their employers

muslim women at work
Women want flexibility and to be evaluated based on deliverables, not how much time they spend at the “office.”

  • Women in the workplace want equal pay and flexibility, but they also want thoughtful appreciations.
  • Four female leaders share how employers can invest in meaningful relationships with their employees.
  • For one, they should let employees know their work and insights are valued.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Last year, I received the iconic Turquoise Pantone 1837 Blue box as a bonus gift from a Fortune 500 company. Inside was a handwritten, congratulatory note and a gift certificate for $1,500 to Tiffany & Co. It provided a woman’s name and phone number to call for personal concierge service, along with an option to take the gift certificate directly into a store to select a piece of my liking. It was the most memorable bonus gift I had ever received.

I emphasize memorable because I have earned a performance bonus of $1,500 or more several times throughout my professional career, and while it’s incredible to receive “unexpected” cash, or achieve a bonus that you have been chasing, it was the creativity and personalization of this gift that made me feel appreciated and empowered.

It’s no secret that working women seek flexibility and want to be rewarded and judged on deliverables, as opposed to how much time we spend at the office. We also seek equal pay, in particular for women of color. While these issues continue to play out, it is promising to see more companies shifting their efforts to prioritize company culture, as evidenced by examples like this terrific, supportive note that a Chicago-area CEO sent to his employees to demonstrated that he understood they have personal lives.

So, what else do women really want from their employers? I checked in with four female business leaders, authors, and TV personalities on the topic, and here are their ultimate insights.

1. Go beyond meeting my expectations

human resources layoffs boss meeting
Connect what’s personally important to someone with the organization.

“Enlightened employers go beyond meeting the basic needs of their employees and seek to truly understand how to engage them,” Denise Lee Yohn, brand leadership expert and author of the book “FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies,” said. “By connecting what’s personally important to someone with the purpose and values of the organization, companies create meaningful relationships with employees and align their efforts with the brand.”

Yohn elaborates, “An example would be how Airbnb opens the café in its headquarters to employees’ families, even for dinner. This helps working parents, as they don’t have to worry about rushing home to prepare a meal or to spend time with their children. And it is a terrific expression of Airbnb’s brand mission — to help you feel that you belong anywhere — and its core value of hospitality.”

2. The value of my work is personal to me

greet coworkers
Employees want to know that they matter.

Carrie Bobb, president of Carrie Bobb & Co, a real estate firm that works with women-focused brands such as Soul Cycle, DryBar, and Sephora remarks, “Exceptional employees, the most valuable assets for an employer, want to know they matter and that the work they are creating is meaningful and will last beyond their time spent at the company. It must be personal. During extremely difficult situations or in the midst of managing a crisis, it is critical to have empathy. Not just express empathy, actually have it. There’s a difference. Often in large corporations, there are so many people involved in the messaging itself that the heart can get lost in translation. Employees want to be heard and understood, and they can tell the difference between a manager expressing the message the company wants to deliver and a manager actually expressing they care for the individual.” 

3. Ask for my opinion

coworker conversation
Women want to be appreciated, respected, and valued.

Jenna Wolfe, the host of Fox sports show “First Things First” and a former “Today” lifestyle correspondent, offers a sincere and direct perspective.

“I’ve worked in television for 23 years, the bulk of which have been as a sportscaster in a male-dominated field,” she said. “The happiest of them have been when I felt appreciated, respected, and valued. I want to know that you need me, that you want me, and that I make a difference. Ask me my opinion, let me sit in on content meetings, listen to my ideas, and show me you’ll actually implement the ones which can help us grow. Don’t get me wrong — a raise is nice. An extra vacation day never hurts. And I’m always down for a gift card to any sports apparel store. But for me, as a woman who comes to a sports office every day well read and well prepared, there’s nothing that makes me happier than commanding the respect of the people I work with.” 

4. Everyone likes to feel included

coworkers office
Inclusion goes beyond gender.

Gina Smith is the president of Rauxa, a woman-founded and led advertising agency owned by Publicis Groupe, and says she prioritizes being empathetic to a diverse group of women. She says, “We have always operated from the perspective that every employee deserves empathy, transparency, and the knowledge that everyone’s ideas are valid regardless of who they are. So it’s not just about meeting the needs of female employees — although that’s critically important — but also about age, experience, gender, orientation, color, and every other area of inclusion.”


Each of these testimonies reinforces that women want to feel valued, respected, and understood, and there are numerous ways for employers to demonstrate that. Meaningful, thoughtful, and personal gestures will go a long way and create a lasting impression. As a company founder of a female agency, I personally love to reward my team with personal gifts or self-care items that they would not spend money on for themselves, such as a massage or yoga membership, and by empowering them to take on more of a leadership role. 

For the curious, with the Tiffany’s gift certificate, I purchased a Paloma Picasso necklace that reads “LOVE,” a value that I prioritize in both my work and daily life. I wear this necklace almost every day and I never forget where it came from. In today’s fast-paced business world, it’s key to treat your employees like people, not transactions, because everyone can always use a little more love, all while moving up the leadership ranks.

This article was originally published on Insider on October 23, 2019.

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Marine Corps gets rid of men’s-only allowance for underwater after audit finds inequities in uniform costs

camouflage uniforms marines
  • The Marine Corps has removed an allowance for underwear that was only given to men and adding a new allowance for women’s dress shoes.
  • The changes come after an audit that revealed systemic inequities in clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Marine Corps has removed a clothing replacement allowance for underwear that was only allotted to men and added a new replacement allowance for female dress pumps following an audit of policy.

A Government Accountability Office report released this month revealed systemic inequities in out-of-pocket clothing and uniform costs for male and female service members – a reality colloquially known as the “Pink Tax.”

The watchdog organization found that some enlisted women paid more than $8,000 out of pocket over the course of a career for clothing, while some men actually ended up with allowance overages they could pocket. The disparity, the GAO found, was largely the result of the higher costs of some women’s uniform items, and costs of essentials not included in clothing calculations that were higher across the board for women.

The investigation also prompted the individual military services to review their own policies and calculations. For the Marine Corps, this resulted in the discovery of inequity and a move to change.

“Beginning in fiscal year 2021, enlisted [Marine] males will no longer receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for underwear, according to the officials,” GAO officials wrote in their report. “Currently, males receive an annualized standard cash clothing replacement allowance for their underwear, but females do not.”

Women Marine Karate
Recruits watch a Marine Corps Martial Arts demonstration, July 21, 2011.

The report added that there had been no annualized replacement allowance for female Marines’ dress pumps, even though they were listed as a required uniform item. Going forward, it said, there would be an additional replacement allowance, apart from the current $50 one-time allotment.

“According to officials, this was an oversight and the Marine Corps plans to fix this to ensure female enlisted service members receive an annualized standard cash clothing allowance for dress pumps,” GAO officials wrote.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps Uniform Board and Marine Corps Installations and Logistics, Master Sgt. Andrew Pendracki, told Military.com via email that underwear was issued to Marines in their initial sea bag and was considered a personal item to be purchased at the individual’s expense following recruit training.

“During the GAO audit, it was noted that male Marines were receiving an annual replacement allowance to maintain drawers as late as [fiscal year 2020],” he said. “A review of past annual Minimum Requirement Lists (MRL) indicated that the drawers have not been on the MRL for at least 20 years and, as such, a clothing replacement allowance should not have been paid.”

A similar allowance did not exist for female Marines.

The annualized line item for men’s underwear is not much: 72 cents, Pendracki said. It will be removed in the fiscal 2022 MRL, he noted.

The new annualized allowance for women’s dress pumps may make a more substantial difference to Marines’ wallets: Female Marines will now get $16.66 per year to maintain and replace their dress shoes.

In the GAO report, officials emphasized that the root issue was equity: equal pay for equal work.

“The equity principle also calls for the concept of equal pay for substantially equal work under the same general working conditions,” the report states. ” … Specifically, comparability refers to the specific items of basic pay, basic pay-related items, allowances, and benefits.”

– Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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How employers can better support working moms with in-person and hybrid work options after the pandemic

working from home virtual learning
Moms may report more anxiety and loneliness while working from home.

  • Working moms face a particular disadvantage when it comes to balancing remote work with domestic duties.
  • A Yale University study suggests moms are more likely to feel depressed, anxious, and lonely while working from home.
  • When deciding on continuing remote work after the pandemic, employers should consider making accommodations for working moms.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Many employers have found to their surprise that remote work offers productivity and savings. Why return to the office, and continue paying that pricey lease, when your employees are just as productive from home? I can already hear the groan of discontent from parents around the country – particularly mothers. Indeed, studies have found that mothers suffer a gender disadvantage in the remote work environment. They are more likely to work with their children present. Their household chores increase when they work from home. They are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and loneliness than their husbands.

Regardless of how attentive their husbands are to the gender imbalance in child-rearing, the fact is that mothers of young and school-aged children tend to be the primary caregiver. They have found it more difficult to manage their maternal and remote work responsibilities during the health crisis.

Employers who decide to continue the experiment with remote work after the global health crisis must avoid contributing to this gender disparity. My research and discussions with mothers reveal a singular finding about how to close the gender gap from remote work: Remote work should be an option, not a requirement.

A case for in-person work

Just as parents realized they relied on school as a form of daycare, mothers have come to realize that they rely on in-person work as a break from their domestic roles. A study by Yale University found that mothers suffered the most due to the clash between the domestic and career roles while working from home. Going to work creates a clear demarcation between these roles.

One friend, I’ll call her M., recently took mental leave because she found the demands of remote work and child-rearing too overwhelming. “I found myself scolding my kids simply because they wanted to spend time with me. They are still too young to realize that they were interrupting my work.” M. is fortunate enough to have the option of paid leave. Now she’s afraid that her firm might decide to require remote work post-health-crisis. “I cannot wait to go back to the office, and I’m not sure if I can stay at home if we go full remote.”

The allure of going remote for some businesses is obvious. Firms can save significantly on fixed overhead costs if they downsize or even eliminate their office space entirely. Indeed, many firms are considering going hybrid – placing some of their workforce in-person and the rest remaining at home. Employers are conducting occupational analyses to determine who will stay remote and who will return to work.

Pressures on mothers

Employers should also consider the gender factor. Some accommodations should be made for mothers (and anyone else, frankly) experiencing difficulties with remote work. They should have the option to return to work even if their positions have been deemed suitable for working remote.

It’s important to note that this problem will not just go away when children return to school after the health crisis. Mothers of young children will continue to care for their children at home. Many parents will decide, regardless of the distress, to save on the costs of childcare and aftercare if at least one parent is working from home.

This is not just a matter of accommodating subjective preferences. The research shows significant mental health problems for many mothers working remotely due to the health crisis. Remote work has altered the work-life balance for many mothers in ways they never envisioned, and employers considering a permanent or hybrid remote work approach must keep mothers in mind.

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