In light of all the inspirational marches that have taken place this past weekend, we thought it appropriate to dabble on the topic of empowering the women in your workplace - even though this should be a constant priority for companies that want to succeed.
The science has been in for quite some time regarding the business benefits of empowering women, which can be defined as giving them the autonomy to set their own goals & priorities, grow into and take ownership of their role, and gain confidence and recognition by demonstrating their abilities.
A study titled “The Business of Empowering Women: Where, Why & How” found by surveying 2,300 business executives that “their investments in women resulted in increased profits” (Source). While there are a number of reasons for this correlation, some notable include: (1) the diversification of decision-making, (2) ability to build and manage relationships, and (3) capacity to juggle a larger number of responsibilities and tasks at once (Source).
While we know this is a complex issue my any measure, we’re sharing important and effective ways to ramp up your female empowerment practices in 2017.
Despite all the progress made in this area, some female professionals still experience or feel some level of interiority in relation to their male counterparts. As a result, it’s common for women to feel insecure about their positions, believing that a small misstep will have significant repercussions to their position.
For junior positions, companies can encourage mentor and mentee relationships for female employees to help guide them through issues of work and establish their career development goals. For more senior positions, this is a great avenue to for them to hone in leadership skills and give back to the community. You can always look outside our own organisation for this type of support if you lack the resources, such as encouraging female employees to join or take part in a gender-focused group or society for their respective fields. See some examples in Hong Kong here.
Following from the idea of building confidence among female employees to not only fill but thrive in their position is to invest in their personal growth. Through advanced performance management, employees are able to better able to keep employees on track to accomplish their goals, grow into their role, and facilitate upwards mobility. Through these assessments, female employees are able to share their needs, such as training or further learning, which then in part contributes to the company’s growth.
Most importantly, female employees are able to grasp the contribution they’re making for the company by directly interacting with its management. Multiple studies have shown that when employees are empowered, they’re more likely to be innovative, engaged with their work, and have better health as a whole (Source).
One of the main issues surrounding gender equality in the workplace is the glass ceiling that women often face with regards to top management positions. According to Forbes, even though women hold 52% of all professional positions, only 14.6 % of all executive positions are held by women, and at the rate we’re going it’ll be 2085 before women are able to hold the same proportion of leadership roles.
It goes without saying that promotions must be merit-based, but if there is a gender disparity in your company’s management positions, it may be worthwhile to ask why, as establishing a precedent of gender inclusiveness is not only beneficial for the diversification of talent in your company, it also sends a message for existing and incoming employee’s about the company’s values. At the end of the day, Gen X and Y have generally grown up surrounded by these ideologies, and are simply expecting gender balance in the workplace.
One of the biggest fears that women face when it comes to their career is that their choice to start or grow their family will affect their existing position. Consequently, women often feel their decision to have a family gives off the impression that they are unmotivated, or unambitious - thus discouraging them from the belief that they are able to have a work-life balance.
In fact, a study conducted by the Centre for Economic Policy Research shows that business owners did not report a dip in the company’s performance or profitability by implementing paid family leave (Source). Working with your employees to figure out what type of arrangement works best for them with regards to maternity leave, or even paternity leave, rather than going with the legal minimum, serves to benefit employee satisfaction and retention. Also, let’s not forget the overall societal benefit with regards to family health that maternity and paternity leave enables (Source).
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