March 8, International Women’s Day, is a daycelebrating women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements around the world. But it’s also a day to take action to build a more gender-balanced world.
This year, IWD’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. Creating a better balance at work pays off for more than just the women involved. A global study by Accenture found that when women advance at work, men are more likely to advance, too. (Check out Pixar’s short film Purl for a humorous look at how diversity makes a business a better place to work.)
How can your small business help strike a better balance at work by putting more women in positions of power?
- Make gender diversity a priorityin your business. A balanced business doesn’t happen by accident. Create a plan for achieving gender balance with specific, measurable goals. Do you want to increase the percentage of women in management roles? Achieve pay equity (according to the Department of Labor, women still earn on average 78 cents for every dollar earned by men)? Attract more women to IT jobs in your business? Share your plan with your employees to hold yourself accountable. Then share your commitment on social media to celebrate International Women’s Day. Download IWD selfie cards, posters, event packs and other tools at the IWD website.
- Be sure your hiring practices are balanced. Your hiring policies may be inadvertently turning women off from applying for jobs at your business. According to a study from researchers at Cornell University, women and minorities generally won’t apply for a job unless they meet every single requirement for experience, skills and qualifications. Instead of saying “5 years minimum experience as accounting manager required,” say “Successful candidates will demonstrate significant experience in a senior role in accounting.” You’re likely to get a wider range of candidates applying. Cornell’s research also found that using male-oriented words like “ninja” or “rock star” in your ads tends to discourage women from applying.
- Implement policies that support women. Child care and elder care responsibilities still fall disproportionately on women. Many women don’t climb the workplace ladder because the long hours or frequent travel required by leadership roles don’t fit their family needs. Offer flexible hours and remote work options that make it easier for women to advance while handling family responsibilities.
- Consider off-hours activities, too. A friend of mine worked at a company that routinely invited male executives to golf outings, paintball battles, sky diving and other “manly” pursuits on weekends. Female execs at the same level didn’t get invitations and were excluded from the chance to build relationships with co-workers and clients. While this is a blatant example of bias, you could be unintentionally biased if activities that help people advance at work are held outside work hours, when many women can’t attend due to family issues.
- Prepare women employees for advancement. Identify women with leadership potential and provide mentorship, training and encouragement to help them develop their skills. For instance, you can enroll them in professional organizations or send them to leadership development and training programs.
Educate your employees. Bias against women is sometimes so ingrained we don’t recognize it. Lean In has partnered with IWD to offer free ready-to-use presentations, like the workshop “50 Ways to Fight Bias,” which offers specific examples to help participants identify gender bias. The presentation is sure to spark conversation, and also provides research-backed recommendations for how to remedy gender bias. You can also browse Lean In’s library of expert talks, discussion guides and resources.
The 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign doesn’t end on International Women’s Day—it runs all year long. Keep your commitment to a better-balanced business going, and you, your business and your employees all stand to benefit.
- Visit our Small Business Story Collection on Celebrating the Power of Women for highlights on how to embrace the unique challenges women face and thrive as small business owners.
- Bank of America recognizes that women play a vital role in driving economic growth and offers resources to connect women entrepreneurs to mentoring, capital and other tools.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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