Top Changes Businesses Need to Make for International Women's Day and Every Day

Diversity & Inclusion
Mentorship
Culture
Author image
Hiba Amin
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International Women’s Day 2021 (IWD 2021) is here, and while this is a great reason to celebrate women worldwide, it shouldn’t be a one-day-per-year sort of thing. As a leader, it’s important that you take the time to reflect on all of the ways in which you can empower women and other minority groups through stronger diversity and inclusion programs.

This year, let’s #ChooseToChallenge the status quo and lift women up every day, not just on March 8th.

In this article, we’ll be walking through ways in which organizations can support womxn within their company walls, and how your business can initiate change today. But, before we dive in, let’s take a second to appreciate the history behind the International Women’s Day celebration.

Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

IWD is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It was first observed in the early 1900s when women started to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change; the women’s rights movement was just beginning.

Since then, it’s become a day for the collective to rally for women’s empowerment and lobby for accelerated gender parity, including in the workplace.

While this has been a century-long tradition, it’s so important to continue to witness this annual holiday. Why?

A World Economic Forum report found that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime. In fact, the report found that gender parity won’t be found for another 99.5 years. That’s why we, as a collective, need to continue to witness and celebrate this global day.

Now that we understand a bit more about the history and importance of celebrating IWD, let’s walk through some ways in which companies can best support womxn in the workplace and begin to create a more gender equal world.

How your company can support female employees

If you’re looking to build a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workplace, a great place to start is implementing policies and processes that support your female workforce. Let’s walk through some ideas to inspire you:

Offer maternity leave and return to work support

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported in 2017 that:

  • 60% of employers offered 12 weeks of maternity leave (including paid and unpaid leave)
  • 33% offered longer leaves
  • 81% offered mothers some type of gradual return to work after the birth of their child (I.e. gradually returning back in a part-time capacity)

Furthermore, there’s a big difference in the career paths of men and women in the years following childbirth. According to a study that surveyed over 3,500 new parents, only 27.8% of new mothers went back to full-time work three years after childbirth, compared to 90% of new fathers.

While time off is incredibly important post-childbirth, how you support a woman’s return to the office is equally as important. A few ways you can ease the burden from women returning to work include:

  • Offering remote or hybrid options
  • Offering flex-hours
  • Being patient, especially in the early days, around things like meetings getting pushed, crying in the background during calls, etc
  • Giving women the option to come back in a part-time capacity until they feel comfortable coming back full-time

Ensure equal salary bands

In 2020, women made 80 cents for every dollar men made for the same job. This isn’t a new conversation we’re having today, and it’s not new information, yet things haven’t changed.

https://www.payscale.com/data/gender-pay-gap


As a leader, you have the power to not only compensate your team fairly to the market, but to one another as well. To ensure that your company is compensating every employee fairly, there are some transparent ways in which you can go about this:

  • Buffer makes their employee salaries public to the company (and everyone else)
  • GitLab uses a salary calculator across all of its employees and applicants
  • Companies like Adobe and Apple have taken equal pay stances to ensure gender pay gaps are reduced or eliminated altogether
  • Many companies are adding a salary range to every role they post on their job board

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are many things you can do to ensure that you’re paying your employees equally, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

Recruit women into senior leadership positions and support their journey

“There weren’t enough female applicants.”

This is a typical sentence you’ll hear when hiring for positions within engineering or leadership. While there are many factors that can play into, from non-inclusive job descriptions to not inviting women to the “golf course”, there is still a lack of representation at the top. In fact, Catalyst research found that, within S&P 500 companies this is the representation women hold:

  • 5.8% CEOs
  • 21.2% Board seats
  • 26.5% Executive/senior-level managers


https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-sp-500-companies/

As you grow your team and promote or hire senior leaders, it’s important that you:

  • Provide employees with equal mentorship opportunities
  • Treat employees equally. If male leaders are uncomfortable providing mentorship to female employees after work hours, the same standards should be held with male employees.
  • Give women extra support in their return to work after childbirth (yes, we’ve already mentioned this, but it’s that important!)

With women making up almost half of the workforce, it’s disappointing to see how the numbers shape up at the top. However, with some of the considerations mentioned, you can play a part in shifting those numbers to better balance the scales.

How your company can initiate change

Apart from the programs and ideas already mentioned in this article, there is no shortage of ways in which companies can initiate change and work towards gender equality. Let’s walk through a few more:

  • Launch a company-wide mentorship program, which will give women at your company the opportunity to learn from others and advance their careers.
  • Increase the conversations you’re having internally around gender equality. This can be done during Lunch and Learns, Town Halls, Quarterly Kick Off meetings, or even at the lunch table.
  • Host Office Hour events led by female leaders to share knowledge, talk about challenges they’ve faced (and how they overcame them), and discuss other important matters. You can also focus these events around particular themes that women encounter such as negotiating salary, battling imposter syndrome, or combating negative stereotypes.
  • Conduct smaller-scale Office Hour events that are hosted by hiring managers to provide visibility into career opportunities to female professionals within the applicant pool.
  • Find ways to improve transparency around salary and compensation, benefits, and other common gender disparities within the workplace.
  • Get your leadership team on board with Diversity and Inclusion initiatives at work. Leaders should clarify to their direct reports that everyone has an important role to play in building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace. They should emphasize that these programs aren’t just for the “bad seeds” or those likely to be discriminated against, but that it’s for everyone.

Wrapping up

Women’s rights are human rights. It’s as simple as that. Yet, here we are almost a century away from gender parity. As we progress through the rest of 2021, try out at least one of the ideas mentioned with your team or company this year. Let’s all work towards closing the wage gap together.

As you start or continue to plan your DE&I strategy this year, be sure to avoid these 15 mistakes that leaders make to ensure your program is a surefire success. Let’s #ChooseToChallenge the status quo this year, every day.

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