One of the reasons that women tend to be woefully absent from top organizations is passive discrimination. This means that no one is deliberately avoiding hiring women, but instead, women are opting out of a particular organization because it simply is not meeting their needs. If your business wants to include more women at all levels – not just because this is the right thing to do, but because it builds a more flexible and adaptive business – then it may be necessary to make some changes.
These five strategies can help you show women that your business is a welcoming environment where they’d love to work.
Dress Codes Designed For Adults
Most adults know the difference between acceptable business clothes and unacceptable work attire. Dress codes that micromanage what can and cannot be worn are irritating to implement and annoying to manage. It is also incredibly easy to build sexism and intolerance into a dress code without thinking about it. If a dress code prohibits head coverings and unkempt hair, for example, many applicants will read this as a condemnation of hijab and traditional African hairstyles.
Even dress codes which specify “suits for men and dress skirts or pants for women” can be read as unfriendly to people who are transgender or genderqueer. Simply say “dress code is business casual,” and trouble shoot as necessary.
Comprehensive Family Leave and Flextime policies
More and more families – not just women – are demanding more forgiving and expansive policies regarding flextime and family leave. With many companies openly acknowledging that they avoid hiring older women to avoid maternity issues, companies which actively court those of child-bearing age are in a place to acquire some of the very best talent.
You could start by seeing what’s offering in your industry, and then going (at least!) one step better, or you could research what’s offered in different European countries, and see how close you can get. Many workers in your office, not just parents, will thank you.
Visible Women On Hiring Teams and Interview Teams
It’s not enough to have your job ad say that your company is an EOE or advertise that you are particularly interested in minorities and women. If you want your company to be seen as inclusive from the beginning, make sure that there are women on your hiring teams and interview teams. Every interview team should have people of different genders, experiences, and backgrounds, so that the interviewee gets a full picture of the staff, and more of their questions can be answered.
Strong Anti-Harassment Policies
Every company in the United States has a policy that says sexual harassment will not be tolerated, but virtually every woman has a story of being harassed due to her gender in the workplace. Incidents go unreported for a variety of reasons – burden of proof, a sense that it’s her word against the other person’s, or office stories about other people who have tried to report and faced retaliation.
The best way to keep this from happening to your business is to create a culture that doesn’t tolerate harassment in the first place. Shut down borderline conversations, encourage your office workers to understand and embrace inclusive thinking, and be available to employees who have concerns. Follow up with any incidents of harassment very seriously.
Limited Outside Work Hours Commitments
Whether a woman has a young family, an elderly relative that she cares for, or is taking classes to pursue a degree, making outside work time commitments can be difficult. In general, employers should create situations where their employees can get their workload completed in their scheduled work time. If they regularly need to stay late or work long hours to get work done, follow up to see if training issues need to be resolved, or if there is simply too much work for one person.
When employers insist on after-hours drinks or parties, whether culturally or not, this can put undue burden on some families. If your business really requires this kind of time commitment, consider speaking with employees one on one about the costs of attending an event. Perhaps the business could cover a sitter, chip in for the extra miles driven to get to the event, or offer to pay for a hotel room for the night if someone is concerned about driving home.
Policies that are good for women are, ultimately, good for the entire company. As businesses implement more humane guidelines for workers, they often find that the stress of the entire company decreases, and that all employees are more productive and relaxed. Retention improves, and the cost of onboarding new hires correspondingly decreases.
What are some policies that you feel need to be adjusted to better support women in the workplace?