This Women’s History Month offers an opportunity for companies to examine their policies, programs and approaches to engaging the women within their ranks and celebrating their accomplishments. Here are some valuable resources to help you embrace and support working women throughout the year.
This March, Women’s History Month has taken on a note of increased importance.
As the last two years have unfolded, women, and particularly women of color, have borne the brunt of both job loss and dangerous front-line work throughout the pandemic, as the Brookings Institute notes. At the same time, demands for women’s time have increased at home due to responsibilities such as childcare and eldercare. McKinsey reports that 1 in 3 women have considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce altogether in the past year.
With burnout on the rise and women stepping into key leadership roles inside and outside their professional lives, today’s top talent are looking for businesses that find tangible ways to support these employees year-round. To highlight the efforts women have made on behalf of your organization, and to address critical issues such as leadership representation, gender equity must remain a key point of focus for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives, and a core consideration in talent management programs and strategy.
Women’s History Month offers an inflection point to examine how your current policies and practices are performing, as well as to foster the right conversations internally and with your wider audience. The following resources can help you explore, evaluate and drive the evolution of your approach to ensuring gender equality in today’s fast-changing landscape.
Understand Where Gaps Exist
Before you can affect change, you have to understand the problems you want to solve. When organizations explore strategies to “close the gap” for women, it’s important to know exactly where the gaps are. Equity issues are diverse and can include pay, representation, schedule alignment, advancement opportunities and more. While the pandemic stressed these issues, in many respects it only amplified dynamics that have challenged women in the workforce for years.
In 2021, experts at the Women@Work conference discussed tactics for closing the gap, including ensuring strong leadership, being clear about what’s required of male allies, moving from talk to mindset shifts and creating an actionable impact for women. Explore their insights to fuel your own explorations in closing the gap, and be sure to participate in ADP’s second annual Women@Work conference in May.
Incorporate Post-Pandemic Women’s Realities into DEI
The pandemic posed unique challenges, both at work and in people’s lives in general. In particular, it has forever reshaped many women’s careers. Many pandemic-related challenges served to exacerbate and magnify issues that were already at play in the workforce. Efforts to recognize and improve the experience of employees must take these realities into account.
Understanding the lived experience of women in the workforce can help you create solutions to optimize their experience and help them make their most important contributions. Assessing your data for inequities in pay and representation, identifying where increased flexibility in programs or policies could better support women and continuing to improve growth opportunities for them as they emerge from the pandemic (and continue to face its ongoing impacts) can make a significant difference.
Foster Diversity in Your STEM Talent Pool
While all of the women in your organization deserve recognition and support, some areas of the working world have been harder for women to gain a foothold in. For instance, STEM fields, which concentrate on science, technology, engineering and math, remain challenging for women to break into.
What steps can your organization take to foster greater gender diversity in STEM fields? Strategies might include highlighting existing high performers, providing entry-level opportunities and recruiting support, and developing support systems such as employee resource groups to help women thrive in STEM roles and beyond.
Focus on Increasing Diversity in the Workforce
Another important element of ensuring gender equity in the workplace is embracing intersectionality and paying specific attention to the experiences of women of color.
During a recent interview with CNN, ADP’s Chief Economist Nela Richardson noted that having diverse leadership teams that include Black, LatinX and Asian perspectives is crucial. “Women and diversity in leadership leads to higher revenues and sales, so why is it still such a hard sell?” she asked.
Organizations must have conversations not only about how to take efforts for gender equality beyond the glass ceiling, but also about ensuring that opportunities beyond the glass ceiling are accessible to all employees.
Celebrate the Women in Your Broader Network
The lessons of the past several years have reinforced a critical point: Community and networks are vital to success. When organizations explore their DE&I conversations and what experiences they’re creating for women, there’s also an opportunity to explore what impact they’re having on women partners and women-led organizations.
With millions of women-owned businesses in the United States, working with partners, vendors and key collaborators who are women is an essential pathway for business growth. One area to consider is prioritizing partners or vendors that are certified women-owned businesses. As part of a larger mission to positively impact women in the workplace, these key partnerships can help women-founded entrepreneurial ventures grow and thrive alongside your own business.
Participate in Ongoing Conversations About Women at Work
An organization’s ongoing commitment to supporting and elevating women in the workplace can benefit from its associates participating in larger conversations happening in the space. Take part in events that bring expert perspectives and create space for women to have tough, honest conversations about their lived experiences. Events such as the Women@Work 2022 virtual summit help surface important issues, provide a lens into effective programming and keep HR experts engaged in these critical conversations.
Organizations should celebrate Women’s History Month in March with a real commitment to ensuring gender equality as part of their broader DE&I strategy. More critically, they should work to uphold the spirit of diversity, inclusion and greater equality for women throughout the year, and to be known as brands that make their values a central component of their employee experience and business culture every day.