Here are eight ways to empower the women on your team and help them reach their full potential. Retaining strong employees is cost-effective and keeps the expertise you’ve built in your employees working for you. And greater diversity is always an asset in reaching a wider range of customers and building stronger relationships with them.
1. Incorporate woman-focused media into team-building activities
Expose your team to strong female figures from both the past and the present. Listen to female-focused podcasts, watch documentaries about women, or read books written by inspiring women as a team. Make these activities engaging by discussing with your team what they found most interesting about these figures and what they see in themselves in relation to those stories.
2. Include women in upper management
Women benefit from having successful role models, especially in real life. Don’t rely only on media about well-known women to provide these models; make sure you give women in your company leadership positions.
With such examples, the women on your team will see that there’s somewhere for them to go within your company and that you appreciate what women have to contribute to the strength and future of your organization. Plus, important mentorship relationships can arise between C-suite women and those holding lower roles in the office.
3. Make pay equal
Pew Research Center found that as of 2018, the gender pay gap had remained relatively the same for the past fifteen years—pay equality is not progressing as quickly as you might think; women still only make 80-85% of what their male counterparts do. This sends the message that professional women are not as valuable and the work they do is less valuable to companies compared to their male colleagues.
To address this, look at payroll across the company and make necessary adjustments. Establish a clear payscale policy going forward so you don’t let unconscious bias sneak into case-by-case negotiations. Also, consider benefits like paid family leave and childcare that will support women who are parents (as well as men).
4. Reduce bias in hiring practices
While policies are key to empowerment, so is addressing the bias that can show up in interpersonal ways. The first step to addressing it is accepting that even if we don’t want to be biased, we’ve been conditioned to accept biased beliefs and need to be intentional about challenging them.
To challenge gender bias, take a look at your hiring practices:
- Do you value candidates who promote themselves as ambitious? Men are more likely to do this.
- Do you evaluate candidates based on potential or what they’ve achieved? Treat these as separate points of assessment.
De-identify CVs or resumes and set diversity goals to kick off the hiring process with the goal of supporting female applicants. While this will attract strong female candidates, it will also show the women already working for you that you’re serious about empowering them.
5. Take sexism seriously
Being intentional about hiring women is important, but women will still be disempowered if they’re exposed to unaddressed sexism in the workplace, whether it’s framed as humor or more serious.
Male managers, as well as men on the team, should find the courage to challenge such comments on the spot and not rely on women in the team to do so. When an immediate response isn’t appropriate, find a time to call that person aside and have a real conversation about why something they said wasn’t okay. If someone repeatedly speaks or behaves in a sexist way, consider that they might not be a good fit for the culture you want to create.
6. Help develop career advancement goals
While men are likely to have ambitions and believe they can succeed at whatever they set their sights on, women sometimes struggle more with believing they can advance, because the reality is, they’re still disempowered in many small ways.
Overcome this by making time to have conversations with the women on your team about what their professional goals are: where they see themselves in five years, if there’s a different role at the company they might want to take on, and what their dream job looks like. Then support them by giving them opportunities to learn new skills and develop in those directions.
7. Provide flexible work options for parents
While parenting responsibilities are shifting toward an increasingly more equal distribution, it’s still true that the majority of it falls to women. Send the message that you respect their work-life balance by making it possible for them to juggle both spheres of responsibility without feeling like they’re compromising their job security. Doing so sends the message that your workplace values gender equity, and remember that offering this to all your employees, not just the women, benefits everyone (including you, because your employees will be happier).
8. Invite women to apply for promotions
Women still struggle with internalized bias, and one way this manifests is that they’re less likely to nominate themselves for promotions. Managers should be aware of this and invite the women on their teams to be considered for promotions. Be direct when you do this: mention the opportunity and be clear when you think someone is a great candidate for it. You might also offer to help them prepare for the interview.
Empowering the women on your team requires a combination of strategies at all levels, from institutional to interpersonal. Some steps have been taken in this direction, but there are many more to go. And remember, it’s always helpful to lead by example: pay attention to the ideas and opinions of the women you work with, support them in their career growth, and challenge sexism wherever you see it.