Anyone who pays any attention to current trends in business is well aware that numbers are showing what great CEOs have known for a long time; the more racially and gender-diverse the workplace, the better a company will fare over the long term.
Companies that hire women in high-level roles are more flexible, take better risks, and are overall more successful. Yet many businesses struggle to hire women. These are just a few of the foolish workplace rules that might be driving off the very women your business needs to succeed.
1. Unfair Timekeeping
If your employees are salaried, but you track their minutes in the office, you as a business do not understand the actual purpose of a salary. If an employee regularly arrives for work half an hour before everyone else, but you force them to use PTO to take an afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment, you’re not actually valuing their time or effort appropriately.
This can be particularly relevant to women who have families. Even if both parents split up childcare evenly, taking time to care for children is going to help employees – and businesses – in the long run.
2. Racially Charged Hair and Dress Codes
In the 21st century, it’s very important to take a close look at the dress codes. If dress codes prohibit “unkempt” hair, understand that this is almost always a coded way of referring to traditional ways of wearing African hair – dreadlocks, braids, twist outs, and Afros. If dress codes prohibit head coverings, there are many observant Muslim and Jewish women who understand that they are not welcome at your place of business.
But even more so, there are many white women who are slowly coming to understand these requirements as racially motivated, and who will therefore opt out of your company as soon as possible, even if these standards don’t apply to them. Dress codes must be inclusive and welcoming if the company is to be perceived as progressive and forward-thinking.
3. Poor Family Leave Policies
Although family and maternity leave is increasingly viewed as an issue for parents of all genders, there’s no question that short and unpaid leave for employees who have just given birth is a huge problem in American society. In countries where new parents have longer leaves, employees are more likely to return to work and are more productive once they’re back at work.
4. Cumbersome Smartphone Use Rules
Being micromanaged in the workplace is unfair to all employees, and cell phone rules are one place where this stands out. It’s absurd to create involved rules about when it is and is not okay for an employee to have their phone out, especially when they’re doing something unobtrusive like listening to music or connecting with a work contact.
The simple fact is that businesses hire people because they trust them to do their jobs. If they don’t trust their employees, they shouldn’t hire them in the first place. Someone might have their phone out because they need to keep an eye out for an important call regarding a child or other family member, because they’re on a break, or because they like to have some music to stay focused. If their work isn’t getting done on time, have that conversation, but if they’re committed to not working, there’s no level of rule-creation that can get it done.
5. Rigidly Defined Feedback Expectations
Women are often in situations where their feedback is not accepted equally to that of a man’s. While some articles focus on what women can do to change that, others argue that the problem lies more with the policing of women’s speech. As a manager, one thing that can be done immediately to increase the voices of women in your organization is to accept feedback in a variety of ways. Yes, meetings are important, but if women feel that they are constantly being talked over and their opinions disregarded, it’s understandable that they would stop trying to be heard.
Managers who accept feedback after a meeting, either one-on-one or in email, open the door for women who weren’t able to say their piece in the meeting to be heard. Moreover, they make it possible for other employees who might struggle with social anxiety, might process information more slowly or might make an after-the-fact connection, to have a voice.
As you review your business, searching for rules that are unfair to women, you will probably find that many of these rule changes have a broader impact than just women. By making your organization more inclusive to all types of people, you will have a wider experience pool to draw from. This will make your business more interesting to investors and more flexible over time.