What can your business do to ensure your workplace is friendly to the women in your workforce?
InHerSight, a website that allows women to anonymously rate how female-friendly their workplaces are, collected data on what makes an ideal work environment for women. These are the top four qualities for a female-friendly work environment:
1. Paid time off: Even as society works toward a more equitable division of labor in the office and at home, providing paid time off is critical for women to know that their workplace values their responsibilities outside of the their job. Paid time off allows employees to take a sick day without stress, to stay at home with a sick child if needed, or simply to ensure vacation time with the kids.
Paid time off also includes paid maternity leave. For businesses with 50 employees or more, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides “up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or to care for a family member, or to attend to the employee’s own serious medical health condition.”
The FMLA rules may not cover your small business, but even so, giving female employees a paid maternity leave shows your commitment to their well-being and acknowledges the many stresses and complications that can come with building a family. And when your business cares for its workers, they will care for you.
2. Salary satisfaction: One of the key work issues for women is closing the gender pay gap, i.e., where men who have the same job titles as women are paid higher salaries. For women to know that their time is just as valuable and they are doing their jobs well as their male counterparts, you must make sure that a gender pay gap doesn’t exist in your company.
3. Culture: Due to historical power imbalances in the professional space, women often are focused on an office culture and how employees and management treat each other. According to the InHerSight survey, this includes being treated in “respectful, professional, and unbiased” ways. There are several different types of policies in the office you can set up in order to make this happen. They include:
a) Zero-tolerance harassment policies. To ensure women feel supported by management, creating a zero-tolerance policy toward any type of harassment is critical. This allows all employees to know they can be in an office environment where they can be free of any fear of verbal or sexual harassment while they work.
b) Bias training. Women often experience gender bias in the workplace, where their skills and knowledge are second-guessed. Workplace discrimination based on sex is a huge barrier to women feeling comfortable in the office, so training your workforce on how to avoid gender bias is crucial in creating a good workplace culture.
c) Mentorship programs. Women often have a more difficult time being recruited or promoted in the office. Mentorship programs, by women and for women, allow for those in senior positions to help women below them ask questions, get guidance, and further their careers with the help of someone who has been there.
4. Flex-time: Allowing flexible work hours is a great way to make your office attractive to new employees and current ones alike. Instead of everyone working a required 9 - 5, letting employees work later on some days and leave earlier on others provides flexibility many appreciate.
Working remotely is another perk to help working parents spend more time with their families.
At the end of the day, none of these policies are difficult to implement and would be very welcome by your team.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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