The topic of women in the workplace can be a bit controversial, and sometimes emotional. While there is undoubtedly a pay gap in the American workforce, with women making about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job, and a gap in women in leadership roles compared to men in those senior positions, people disagree over the reasons for those gaps. Is it that women don’t put in as many hours because they are also primary caretakers at home? Is it because they don’t want to be at work, or because they don’t have the desire to take on more leadership roles? Or is it because of unconscious bias in the workplace that doesn’t allow for as many opportunities for their advancement? Just about anyone you’d ask would have a different answer.
Because the topic is so emotional, our friends at Gallup wanted to arm us with some real data points to have the right discussion about women in the workplace. Their report, “Women in American: Work and Life Well-Lived,” digs into the question, “how can businesses create an ideal work culture for women?” The report is based on data from over 300,000 American adults. Their aim is to help your company apply the data around what attracts, engages, and retains a gender-diverse workforce to your unique situation so that you can create the right conditions for everyone in your company to succeed. How does gender-diversity help everyone succeed? “Gallup is just one of many research and academic institutions to link gender diversity to improved profits and revenue."
Here’s what you can do to create an Ideal Work Culture for Women:
Keep Up with Shifting Expectations:
- One of the findings is that employee expectations are shifting, not only because of women but also because of increased millennials in the workforce.
- In the past, expectations were centered on a paycheck, personal satisfaction, annual reviews, remediating weaknesses, and pleasing your boss.
- In future workplaces, expectations are shifting to focus on purpose, development, coaching, ongoing conversations, strengths, and work-life balance.
Find out What Women Want:
- According to the Gallup report, 54% of working women with children would rather stay home, and 40% of working women with children would prefer to work outside the home.
- Forty percent of women in the workforce want to advance into senior leadership positions.
- But, these are just stats. Don’t make assumptions about women in your workforce and put them on the “mommy track” just because they’ve got children. Find out what women who work for you are looking for in their careers. Create the safety to have a conversation about whether women in your team want to work or need to work so that you can set them up for success.
- When women work outside the home, they are more engaged than their male counterparts, and female managers are better at engaging their employees than male managers. Finding out what women in your company want, and mentoring and developing women as leaders can have a major impact on your overall employee engagement.
Encourage Flexibility and Well-Being:
- Women value well-being, which Gallup defines as “the convergence of our sense of purpose in what we do, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health and the pride we have in our communities.” Women lead men in four out of the five elements of well-being (the exception being physical). Women are already doing a lot right in their lives, and the workplace needs to keep up with them.
- Women want different things from their work experience than men. Sixty percent of women rated greater work-life balance and better personal well-being as a very important attribute in a new job, and only 48% of men said the same.
- One of the reasons cited for men making more money than women is that they report working more hours than their female counterparts. However, companies should consider how they value the perception of hours worked. Is it more important to you to have employees who work 40+ hours a week, or is it more important to have high-quality contributions that may take less time since some people work at a faster rate? Shifting the focus from the number of hours worked to achieving a clearly defined outcome can help with the rationale for flexible work schedules.
- Flexible work arrangements help people stay engaged and in the workforce longer, but to make them effective you have to measure success based on performance and clear expectations of outcomes rather than hours in front of a desk. “Flexible work cultures succeed only when they are based on trust, authenticity, and accountability for performance."
Focus on the Right Managers:
- In creating an ideal work culture for women, managers really matter. Direct managers can make the most significant difference in women’s success in the workplace. They are key to employee engagement and can help women figure out what it takes to be successful and how to allow for more flexibility.
- In performance conversations, managers should emphasize career aspirations, strengths, performance metrics, goal alignment, and life outside of work.
- Mentors, sponsors, and coaches are also important to help women live their unique strengths and do what they do best to benefit both themselves and the company as a whole.
- Managers can also create opportunities for team members to get to know each other. Relationships are an important motivator for women at work, and “when employees have a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they take positive actions that benefit the business - actions they might not have taken if they did not have strong relationships with their coworkers."
- Because of the impact they can have on your workplace, emphasize hiring and promoting the right women and men to leadership positions. Use a Job Scorecard to help you with the hiring process.
To hear more from Gallup on employee engagement, come to our Breakthrough Conference in October. We’re also featuring a Women in Leadership Panel Breakfast so you can join in the conversation about what an ideal work culture for women might look like at your organization.
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