5 creative ways companies can better support women in the workplace

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Companies should establish women as experts in their field early to clients, and support them if their expertise is challenged.

  • Five women share more holistic ways companies can better support them at work.
  • They say family planning is a primary concern of working women who want to start a family.
  • Financial and mental support for women planning to pursue long careers is also important.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There are a bevy of benefits women consistently list as being most supportive – flexible work schedules, paid maternity leave, and childcare options, for example. But when Glassdoor asked women what companies could do better, they offered up some other ideas. Here, these women say, are the creative and important ways that companies could support them even better.

1. Help women plan for their families

“Many companies say they support women, but the reality is they don’t. Career advancement is linked to performance, as it should be – but if you are single and don’t have support, you are often putting everything aside to work and by the time you achieve your goals, you may not be able to have kids. I wish companies would offer IVF or egg storage options so women didn’t feel pressured to have kids early in their careers.” – Michelle, a nurse executive in Washington, DC

2. Establish women as company leaders

“I had to prove myself to clients and other industry players and now, I’ve built a rapport. But it wasn’t always that way. My company kept me involved with client decisions from the start, and I recommend companies introduce women early to clients and establish them as the point-person or leader. I’ve experienced my fair share of sexism, with clients saying, ‘I don’t want to talk to you because you’re a woman.’ But my company’s leaders pushed back, touted my expertise, and told them I was the foremost expert.” – Carrie, an operations manager in Irvine, California

3. Craft HR policies that help women

“I’d strongly recommend small businesses hire HR consultants when drafting employee manuals, evaluation forms, disciplinary notices, and other HR-related documents. Having a professional take a holistic view of your practices is a great idea to ensure you’re building a fair, transparent workplace with equitable procedures related to evaluations, maternity leave, pay gap distributions, and other policies that disproportionately impact women. Male business owners may otherwise be unaware of some of these topics, so investing in an outside party to evaluate your HR practices is a must-do.” – Jenny, a program manager in Los Angeles, California

4. Offer plans that support pregnancy

“Many companies are becoming more generous with their maternity leave policies, but what about the time, effort and money it takes to actually get pregnant? Flexible work schedules, remote opportunities, emails instead of meetings, and better insurance benefits for fertility treatment would be awesome. Before I started trying for a baby, I was in a meeting with 20 women and not one of them had a child. It made me scared to attempt to try for my own because I thought my career wouldn’t support that path. Something’s got to give to make women more comfortable with having a baby.” – Arielle, a website founder in Boston, Massachusetts

5. Help with home office costs

“I think the one thing that could be done that would make me feel even more supported would be to help me subsidize the cost of a home office. I feel much more productive when I have a dedicated office space from which to work, and it allows me to get solid work done even when my daughter is home.” – Lacy, a chief marketing officer in Boston, Massachusetts

Offering childcare options is not enough to drive women’s careers. Financial aids for family planning, equitable HR policies, and assistance with setting up home offices are key opportunities for companies to better support their female employees.

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CEO of Future Super: Gender equity is everyone’s business, and it isn’t a pipe dream

Kirstin Hunter Headshot
Kirstin Hunter, CEO of Future Super

There’s a lot of talk about gender inequality in Australia. The glass ceiling. Women earning 79 cents for every dollar. Men holding 67% exec roles and 71% board roles. Old ladies retiring with 47% less super than old men. 

Gender inequality means all of these things.

Despite all the column inches given to gender inequality, and the “inclusive workplace policies” purporting to address it, when we look beyond words to actions the reality is that change is moving at a glacial pace. At the rate we’re going, it will be another 202 years before gender pay equity is achieved in the Australian workforce. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait that long, and neither can the members of the superannuation fund at Future Super. 

Transforming business for equality

Business leaders can and should be leading the charge for gender equality. This leadership must start with an honest and data-driven conversation within your own organization. 

The great news for business leaders is that you can do this regardless of how big or small your business is, and once you start, change can happen very quickly.

At Future Super, we began by analyzing our own gender pay data (both overall and by seniority), setting board-level targets, and sharing our progress against these targets with our team. This approach has allowed us to transform our business: in four years we’ve improved our gender representation across the team (from 30% to parity) and in the leadership team (from 20% to parity), while also reducing our gender pay gap from ~25% to within our target of +/- 5%.

But we didn’t stop there.

We also reflected on the trends in our own industry, where women retire with 47% less super than men. The reasons for this retirement gap are known: women are less likely to make the senior ranks, are more likely to take time off for caring duties, and more likely to return part-time. As a small business we may not be able to fix the system, but what can we do to make sure that our own staff don’t suffer that same fate? We introduced three policies to address these drivers of inequality. Today at Future Super, all staff earning less than $80k are paid a higher rate of superannuation, all staff taking time out of work for parental leave are paid super contributions for up to 12 months, and all staff who are working part-time due to caring responsibilities are paid super at the full time rate. 

But it’s not enough for us to think only of our own team. As a superannuation fund we must also act with our members’ retirement outcomes in mind.

Investing for gender equity

When Future Super makes investment decisions on behalf of our members we need to consider a company’s long-term economic prospects. When it comes to gender, the data has shown time and time again that diverse teams perform better. 

If diverse teams perform better, it stands to reason that teams lacking diversity will perform worse. 

What that says to me is that a business that fails to build a diverse team is a bad investment: these businesses are willing to ignore the data and leave money on the table to protect the status quo. That’s why we stopped investing in companies that have all-male boards.

Advocating for gender equality for our members

When systemic factors make it more likely that our female members will retire with less than our male members, it becomes our responsibility to challenge that system.

In the 2020 Equality is Everyone’s Business report into gender inequality, we found that one of the most effective actions that businesses can take to improve gender pay equity within their organization is to improve transparency on actions and performance on gender pay equity. Despite this also being one of the most simple actions businesses can take, our research found that more than 50% of companies in the ASX100 are still refusing to do this.

Gender equality is not just good ethics, it’s good economics. Gender equality is everyone’s business: it’s up to all business leaders to be part of the change, to promote and improve workplace gender equality. Your employees and your investors will thank you.

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