For decades, women have been fighting for equal rights in the workplace, education, government, reproductive rights, and so forth. Companies have made pledges to have more women in leadership positions or on the board of directors. While it’s great for companies to make these kinds of promises, there is still so much more to be done to create an equitable workplace for women.
Unfortunately, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, women were hit the hardest in unemployment. According to McKinsey, “women have accounted for nearly 56 percent of workforce exits since the start of the pandemic, despite making up just 48 percent of the workforce.”
Organizations have ample opportunity to bring these issues to light and create an actionable strategy that they can implement during Women’s History Month and beyond. Here are a few small yet impactful ways to create a more inclusive workplace for women.
Amplify Your Female Voices
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Everyone has a unique story. The women in your workplace come from many different backgrounds, professionally and personally. During this month, empower some of your female leaders or employees to share their stories, ideas, and get their voices heard. Maybe they have an inspirational story about their professional development that will inspire and motivate their peers or subordinates. Founder and CEO of Emtrain, Janine Yancey, wrote a blog post about how her gender (female) has been a critical factor in both the challenges she experienced and her success as an innovator and entrepreneur. Read her story: On Being a Woman CEO and Entrepreneur.
According to a 2020 report by Catalyst, they “found that 45% of women business leaders say it’s difficult for women to speak up in virtual meetings and one in five women say they’ve felt ignored or overlooked by colleagues during video calls.” Women are often interrupted by their male counterparts during meetings, which can lead to frustration, defeat, and feeling unappreciated in the workplace.
During virtual meetings, managers should go around the meeting space and ask each team member to share their ideas, voice their opinions, and ask questions. Additionally, take advantage of the chat feature in some of the video call software. That way, nobody will feel interrupted or speak over each other.
Check out Emtrain’s microlesson on how managers and employees can create an inclusive meeting space.
Assign Work Fairly
Historically, women’s roles and responsibilities in the workforce consisted of typewriters and note-takers, assistants and office managers, and care-takers. There are many real-life stories of women getting assigned a “super crucial role”, only to find that you’re merely taking notes for a male executive. Or when a leader asks “who can take notes?” during a meeting, only to find dead silence until a woman volunteers. According to an HBR study, women are more likely to volunteer for support tasks, also known as non-promotable tasks than males. Non-promotable tasks do not contribute to someone’s performance evaluation.
In Unconscious Bias Gets in the Way of Moving Up the Ladder, we discuss how unconscious biases in assigning support tasks can:
- Unfairly burden certain employees
- Effect how specific team members are perceived
- Limit that person’s opportunities for professional advancement and development
When support-tasks are not evenly assigned, one person becomes “the organizer,” while the other team members are the “big idea” folks. How can tasks be assigned fairly and minimize unconscious bias? First and foremost:
- Identify the support, non-promotable tasks associated with team performance
- Round-robin who performs these tasks
- Tracking the team’s weekly tasks, how long they take and who is doing them
All too often, women are experiencing inequities in what might not be such a big deal to others. Women in the workplace just want to feel included and appreciated, and have the same opportunities as everyone else to succeed and grow. Unconscious bias can get in the way of that, and while it’s unintentional, it can be avoided.