BLOG IMAGE Create Better Workplace Cultures for Women

Create a Better Workplace Culture for Women

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern.

There are plenty of articles about why working women have been disproportionately affected by the global pandemic. I don’t wish to cover old ground in this post, because we all know there is a global she-cession. What I do want to do is to advise leaders on how to create workplace cultures that are much better for working women. 
 
Why? Because women are at a tipping point due to the impacts of the pandemic. If women are at a tipping point, then according to the well-proven business case for gender equality, so is business. And society in general.
When more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality in addition to other positive development outcomes. International Monetary Fund

 THE BRUTAL TRUTHS ABOUT WORKING WOMEN

how bosses can create workplace cultures that are better for working women

Deloitte: Understanding the pandemic’s impact on working women

Millions of women have been pushed out of the workforce or forced to downsize their careers due to a range of factors related to the pandemicWhilst it is dubbed a global “she-cession”, I want leaders to understand how the gains we have all made for global workplace gender equality are being eroded before our very eyes.
 
“Across the globe, women earn less, save less, hold less secure jobs, are more likely to be employed in the informal sectorThey have less access to social protections and are the majority of single-parent households. Their capacity to absorb economic shocks is therefore less than that of men.” Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women
At the time of writing this, my hometown of Melbourne is navigating its fourth hard lockdown since the onset of the pandemic It will be yet another blow for the hard-fought inroads into workplace gender equalityIn too many cases, this will have disastrous consequences on the lifetime earnings and financial security of women.

3 THINGS LEADERS MUST DO (NOW)

They must act! Unless leaders act to improve the workplace culture, policies and lived experience of women, then the recovery from the global pandemic will be delayed for both business and society.

Matthias Doepke who is a Professor of Economics at Northwestern University says “it’s not about one single thing” in reference to the exodus of women from the global workforce. So here are some questions to ask at the next board and/or executive team meeting:

1. Do the board and the executive team regularly review the representation and lived experience of women in the workplace?

Track talent-related data! Boards and Executives must insist on regular reports about the talent-related decisions as part of their risk and opportunity register processBy regularly reviewing the quantitative data associated with job losses, both voluntary and involuntary, promotion rates, hiring rates along with the qualitative data from focus groups, business leaders can maintain a vigilant approach towards gendered regressive impacts within their company

2. Has a gender equality lens been applied to all talent-related decisions before and during the pandemic

Attitudes also shape how women experience the economic consequences of a crisis relative to menThese aren’t new beliefs but rather traditional societal mindsets about the role of womenThey may be reflected in current decisions, at the organizational level or indeed within the family, about who gets to keep their jobsFor example, according to the global World Values Survey, more than half the respondents in many countries in South Asia and MENA agreed that men have more right to a job than women when jobs are scarce. About one in six respondents in developed countries said the same. McKinsey

Mindsets matter, when restructuring, retrenchments, redeployments, and downsizing strategies are being developed. How is your organisation ensuring that gender bias is being called out to mitigate the unfair impact on women

3. Is the organization’s approach to family working for all people? (not just women)

A flex work policy is one thing. But leaders must understand that flexible and remote working is not just a ‘women’s issue’.  Gendered attitudes prevent more men than women from asking for flexible work arrangements. Workplace flexibility bias (the belief that people at their workplace are unlikely to get ahead if they take leave or work flexibly) affects all genders attitudes to their workplace and has massive implications for women engagement at work, their intentions to stay or leave their jobs, their ability to balance their work and personal lives, and even their health. In other words, if more men ask for flex work arrangements and as a consequence,  ‘shared the care’ in the home, then more women would be enabled to participate more fully (and potentially joyfully) in the workforce. Organizations must step up action towards a family-friendly workplace that enables flexible and remote working.

These are a few of the strategies that inclusive, progressive leaders are implementing. As already stated, working women are at a tipping point right now. So are organizations and society. Now is the time to enact the recovery plan to get women back into the workforce. Not just because of the talent and representation women bring to the table, but because of the long-term consequences to women’s finances, which can trickle down for generations

About Michelle Redfern

BLOG IMAGE Michelle RedfernMichelle is the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on equality, inclusion and gender diversity. She is also the founder professional women’s network Women Who Get It, co-founder of social enterprise CDW (Culturally Diverse Women and Workforces) and co-founder and co-host of A Career that Soars! Michelle is determined to contribute to achieving global gender equality in her life time, especially through her research and advocacy in the sporting industry.

Michelle is a Non-executive director for Williamstown Football Club, an Ambassador for Honour a Woman, Respect Victoria and Flexible Working Day. She has held executive leadership roles ASX & FTSE listed companies NAB, Telstra and Serco during her 30-year career.

Michelle was named City of Melbourne B3000 Female Entrepreneur of the Year (2019), is a proud recipient of the AFR 100 Women of Influence Award (2018).

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Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.