Are you sure your business is women-friendly?

Mar 5th, 2019

If you’re still on the fence about making your business women-friendly, would you rather have access to 50% of the workforce or 100%?

Ahead of International Women’s Day this Friday we’ve been spotting some great content across the web and one in particular from Prospect and BECTU which provides an eye-opening checklist for businesses about how ‘ women-friendly’ they really are.

Now we’re not really keen on the term women-friendly’ it’s our view that employers should be doing more across the board to create diverse workforces and that means being ‘friendly’ to a wide range of people however since we also know that some employers simply aren’t set up to support female employees and we’re all about changing that narrative we thought we’d take a closer look at just three of the items on the checklist and how businesses can address them.

Training and Career Development

Research published in 2018 found that around 8 in 10 men benefit from work-based training compared to just 6 in 10 women, men were also more likely to be trained in mainstream business strategy subjects leading us to some more familiar statistics in that they outrank women when it comes to receiving promotions or salary increases as a result of that training. Women were found to have asked for more job-focused training particularly in the areas of IT and Mathematics but were steered towards into less mainstream training areas like diversity creating a ‘training penalty’ purely based on gender.  

So businesses what can you do to support change? Well for a start it’s about realising that women do want to undertake training but that perhaps you’re not considering why they might not be doing so, let’s address that, most training courses are full days or a week, often in a different location out of the office which makes it incredibly difficult to access them if you are already juggling career and family commitments - but there’s really no reason why in 2019 why these training needs can’t be supported digital through online learning or through a blend of in person and online education. The onus is also on you as a business to develop all of your staff so if you don’t see the women in your teams moving through the ranks it’s unlikely to be because they don’t want to, but because you’re not making it possible for them to do so.

Flexible Working

A Timewise Survey of 1800 professionals showed that whilst 78% said their current or most recent employer offered flexible working, 30% of workers felt that they were regarded as less important as a result of accessing flexible working and 25% felt they were given fewer opportunities than colleagues who worked conventional hours. Which begs the question if you’re offering flexible working just to pay lip service to policy or what you think is expected why are you even bothering?

To make flexible working a success you have to understand the reasons why it’s needed and why you should offer it in the first place and also the benefits that it will bring to your business as a result, we don’t need to say that women with young children quite obviously need flexibility to support work-life balance but 60% of all respondents wanted a range of flexible working options, so by not making flexible working ‘work’ you’re at risk of alienating and potentially losing a high percentage of your talent. Get it right and you’ll see an increase in productivity, talent retention and the wellbeing of your workforce - and what employer doesn’t want that.

Returning to Work

Women who have taken a career break - usually to have children or care for others are often forced to return to lower skilled or paid jobs because of a lack of flexibility around family and these women are essentially paying a penalty for having a career break. In research from PwC 79% of women who’d taken a career break wanted to return to work but 65% of them who did return worked below their potential and a whopping 93% of women said that it was hard to combine a successful career with caring for a family, so as a business are you really supporting returners? Because it’s more than just keeping their job open for six months and letting them come back.

It’s actually a combination of the other two factors we’ve covered in this blog, flexibility is absolutely crucial, closely followed by training and development, perhaps the women in your workforce want to return to the same role but the hours no longer suit, can you address that? Or perhaps they’d rather move into another role which suits them and you better overall, are you in a position for them to access that role through training and development and are you committed to further developing them? And beyond that do you want to build diverse teams and become a more attractive employer?

As a business, there are no downsides to making your organisation more ‘ women-friendly and if you’re still on the fence look at it this way, would you rather have access to 50% of the workforce or 100%?