The main goal of any for-profit organization is to make an impact while growing revenue. They make money by creating growth for their employees, their clients, and their community. Women can play a major part in helping organizations achieve this goal. In fact, a recent study shows that on average, companies with at least one woman in the C-suite are 6% more profitable that those without. Those with at least one woman on the board, outperform those without by 16%. These numbers give everyone a reason to care. If women are so vital to an organization’s success and bottom line, why is it so hard to hire, retain, and promote them?
Building a More Flexible Workplace
Utah, home to MarketStar headquarters, has a 44% share of women in the workplace (36% full time). One of the challenges we face is that many of these women are under-employed. 40% of women in Utah work in two occupational groups, office/administrative and service occupations. Those groups include jobs that pay well below the average wages in Utah. This tells us that women take opportunities that are more likely to fit in with their lifestyle — allowing for a family-first approach and often times sacrificing their full potential and capabilities.
Barriers for women in the workplace include a lack of flexible work hours and availability of affordable childcare. When employers can provide simple benefits addressing these concerns, women tend to be all in. They are grateful for companies that allow them to participate in a work environment that allows them to meet their family-life goals. In return, they will perform at a high level, be fully committed, and be extremely loyal. Small tweaks to benefits and a little flexibility can result in large payoffs.
Hiring for and Promoting the Best Talent
Women can add many natural qualities to an organization contributing to diversity in thought. They can offer a softer perspective to tough issues in the workplace, as they add empathy to employee situations. Women are great mediators, amplify and lift up others, can be very organized, and can multi-task with the best.
When hiring for talent, companies need to look internally to bring awareness to blind spots they have with diversity in general. They need to evaluate if they are representative of their customers and their communities. When leadership positions open up, companies should leverage their networks and think broadly about what type of person is needed for a role. Women always need to be considered. Women don’t ask for a pass on quality. They are not looking to take away positions from male colleagues. They are asking only for a seat at the table — a chance to compete.
I am, and will remain, a firm believer in hiring the best person for the role, regardless of gender. The top person for the role is always the one that has the sharpest mind, best attitude, the most potential, and the one that is willing to work hard to succeed. Experience and aptitude for the role are also key. In order to retain and elevate more women from within an organization, identifying potential candidates and nurturing these skills leading up to open opportunities is so important. This can be vital to an organization, but it takes a conscious commitment to institute and support mentoring programs built around this idea. However challenging, the commitment to these efforts will pay off.
In 1963, women earned on average 41% less than males. Today it is 20%. There have been major improvements, but we still have a work to do as a society. It is unacceptable that in 2020 there is a wage gap for the same work, equal experience, and the same job. The key to resolving wage gap is knowing where you stand. Companies need to have the awareness of what wage gaps exist in their organization, and then they need to move toward fixing them. Sometimes it is unintentional and can be easily remedied. If companies care about increasing revenue and creating growth, it’s worth an exercise to discover if gaps exist.
Supporting Internal Initiatives for Women
One of the most powerful ways companies can help close the gap of wages, address underemployment, and fill leadership roles is to have male allies that are willing to step up and take charge — especially at the executive level. The movement to empower women in the workplace needs to be a joint effort and cannot be left alone for women to conquer by themselves. The removal of patriarchal cultures, stigmas associated with becoming a male ally, and fear of saying the wrong thing in the era of the #metoo movement will help us move forward together.
I have personally benefitted from efforts made by MarketStar, as our executive team has created an opportunity for an employee resource group around Women in Business. The group creates events for employees focused around education on these issues, networking to build connections, and alliances that connect us to outside communities that are working on the same initiatives. The goal of Women in Business is to strengthen our culture, improve financial performance, and to leverage our amazing talent. It has been an amazing experience and a great movement to be part of. Realizing the demand for such a resource has increased the desire for the group to provide valuable experiences to our entire workforce.
Moving into 2020 and beyond, let’s give the women in our lives the same opportunities to provide and thrive as we do our male allies. It’s time for us to all care and do our part to enable change, like offer to mentor an up and coming female or join a group like Women in Business. Adding more flexibility to work environments that are attractive to women, considering diversity when making hiring decisions, and championing company-wide initiatives for women in the workplace are important considerations for organizations to move the needle on diversity and ultimately improve their bottom line.