By: Kathy Albarado on March 29th, 2024

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Championing Women in Your Workforce

When I launched the company that became Helios HR back in 2001, one of my objectives was to help encourage organizational cultures in which women can fulfill their professional potential.

More than twenty years later, I’m proud to see so many companies taking DEI&B seriously. Our clients have worked hard to become more inclusive, as have many other organizations across the country. Did you know that 10% of Fortune 500 companies currently have female CEOs? This is a vast improvement since 2001, when 99% of those CEOs were men.

Achievements like these deserve to be celebrated and it’s important that we keep this progress moving forward.

There are still some serious challenges ahead. We know that many women were forced to leave the workforce during the Covid crisis, and recent data shows that workforce participation is still declining among women. Many women refrain from asking for the benefits they need, such as childcare and maternity leave, and many organizations are finding a gender imbalance in the middle of their talent pipelines.

Now more than ever, it’s time for leaders to champion the women on their teams.

5 ways to support the women in your organization

Gender equality is a win-win for everyone. As an employer, our efforts to create an equitable workplace have made a meaningful difference to our long-term business growth. We've seen excellent employee engagement, low staff turnover, and a strong employer brand. 

Creating a culture of equality takes time and effort. Here are some things to take into consideration.

1. Offer benefits that are helpful to women

Most families depend on someone to do unpaid care work, such as childcare or caring for older relatives. Studies show that around 75% of this work is performed by women, and it’s one of the main contributing factors to the gender pay gap.

Employers can help by offering benefits that support employees with care responsibilities. This can include generous PTO, flexible working hours, childcare support, remote working arrangements, and parental leave where possible. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It is most often the flexibility that is highly coveted.

2. Support career development

Your internal talent pipeline should constantly be producing the next generation leaders and subject matter experts. Ask yourself, are you treating everyone in the pipeline fairly? It’s a good idea to regularly audit leadership development programs and succession plans to ensure you’re working towards gender equity.

If you are having trouble, it’s important to identify what’s working and what needs work. Not hiring enough women? Review your recruitment process and work to eliminate bias. Too few women applying for leadership positions? Develop internal mentoring programs that give them a chance to make connections and meet a champion. Also, offer the opportunity for your employees to attend networking events such as the Business Journal's Bizwomen Leadership Council or Mentoring Monday, for example. These intentional programs can give women the encouragement they need to apply for senior roles.

3. Foster an inclusive culture

Culture plays a significant role in your DEI initiatives. Talk to your team about their experiences and look for cultural issues that might alienate women. Your HR team should work on resolving those issues as soon as possible so that all team members feel equally valued.

Also, remember that women from different backgrounds may have different experiences. Listen to all perspectives on your team, including women of color, LGBT+ women, and women with disabilities, as an example.  

4. Encourage employee resource groups

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great way to keep working towards your DEI goals. An ERG is a group of employees with a shared background who meet to discuss their experiences. These groups can offer mentoring, mutual support, and career advice.

ERGs allow your team to talk openly about their experiences within the organization. Often, this can highlight issues that an individual might not feel comfortable raising on their own. A good dialog between ERGs and your HR team can help you gain rich insight into the employee experience and your organizational culture.

Similarly, you can align your Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) initiatives to focus on non-profits and community impact projects geared towards advancing women. At Helios, we work with several non-profits in our community, but two that stand out in this area are Women Giving Back and Leadership Mission International

5. Celebrate amazing women

Lastly, the best way to build an inclusive culture is to celebrate all of the amazing women on your team! Highlight the successes of your female employees, and make sure that women are present in all of your public communications.

If you aren’t already doing so, give women a chance to represent the company at everything from client meetings to award ceremonies, to being visible in the press. This will show that your leadership team is serious about having equal representation of all genders.  It may also encourage other women to come forward and indicate their desire to work towards a senior position in your organization.

Looking to the future

Whatever your DEI strategy, it's crucial to have full organizational alignment. You need buy-in from leaders and employees, with a nimble HR team keeping everyone on the same page. 

If you'd like some expert advice, book a call with Helios HR today. Our team of experienced consultants will discuss your needs and help you build an organizational culture in which everyone thrives. 

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