It's March, which means it's Women's History Month (and don't forget to mark your calendar for International Women's Day, which is coming up this Friday). Here at World Pulse it is lots of sharings and we're thinking about how much women have done throughout history to transform the working world;from making waves in male-dominated fields to fighting harassment to pursuing equal pay and representation in leadership roles. But while we recognize major strides, we also know that the hard work is far from over.
So, how do you start that conversation?
Well for starters, it’s crucial to acknowledge this fact: The issues women struggle with and care about vary greatly. Therefore, you have to avoid making assumptions that categorize women into one big homogeneous group who will all benefit from the same policies, or making demands that might benefit you, but not be of utmost importance to others.
Ask if They’ll Invest in Sexual Harassment Training
People hear the term “harassment” and automatically think of very serious and litigious cases, but women can often face subtler forms of sexual harassment that make them feel both uncomfortable and scared.
For example, things like a late-night text with a compliment and an invite to meet for a drink, the wink that’s included in every new assignment email, or the kiss on the cheek your boss gives you when greeting you or handing you an award. Most of the time women stay quiet, endure it, and often just leave the company or organisation when they can’t take it anymore. That’s not fair—and most companies would agree it’s not right.
So ask HR to invest in sexual harassment training. Even better, ask around if any of your friends at other companies have consultants they’ve used for this type of training that they think have a modern and effective approach. You'll not only be helping your company or organisation save some time, but you’ll also show how serious you are about the topic while demonstrating that you’re a partner in finding a solution.
Ask How They Support Women With Children
Many women battle with the question of what to put first: career or family. And often this is because they’re working in an environment that doesn’t seem very supportive of parents. Ask your HR department how your company or organisation supports women who are planning to have children, who have recently returned to work, or who are established mothers.
You can suggest things like (or even offer to help with!) the following:
- Offering expecting mothers a guide for what to consider before going out on maternity leave and what to do when returning
- Providing paid maternity leave for all or part of six months
- Creating a return-to-work transition plan to help them gradually enter back into the workforce, ensuring there is a proper, legally compliant lactation room with a refrigerator
- Starting a support group for new moms to meet, share stories, and swap resources
- Encouraging your company or organisation to offer a variety of times when company or organisation or team socializing happens (for example, if socializing only happens after 6 PM, parents have fewer opportunities to build relationships with their team or boss)
Ask That Managers Complete Inclusivity Training
Encourage your company or organisation (or even just your department head) to build out manager training programs that outline the importance of creating inclusive team environments that are free of assumptions and biases.
For example, some leaders assume mothers wouldn’t want to be considered for a big assignment or a promotion, or that women who don’t have children don’t mind staying late in a meeting while they watch their colleague get dismissed to leave because they have to do school pick-up. These are certainly not true in many cases, and making these assumptions can be dangerous for women’s advancement, not to mention overall team morale. Management training can help people become more aware of their unconscious biases.
Ask for Equal Access to Career Opportunities
For various reasons, women can feel as if they’re not given the same important, high-profile assignments as their male counterparts, that they’re not given the credit they deserve for the work they contributed to a group project, or that they’re not being tapped for the more senior role.
As your company or organisation if they’ve recognized this dynamic at play among their own workers and, if so, how they’re being proactive in fixing the situation. If they’re not, you might suggest things like:
Starting a women’s leadership network in your organization so women at all levels can support one another and share resources Encouraging your company or organisation to post jobs internally before externally to ensure interested employees have an opportunity to apply( This is a plus here at World Pulse where we even have a resources section so we can browse through and respond to the causes we care about. Infact I am enjoying other great opportunites courtesy of the resources I find here on our resources section. Thanks Ladies).
Asking leaders at the company or organisation to consider this question when they have opportunities to assign high-profile assignments: Are there any talented women we haven’t given a chance to yet?
In an ideal world, more companies/organisations would conduct surveys asking questions about real issues employees care about and tackle any serious issues inhibiting people’s comfort and satisfaction head on. However, that process is time consuming, and some companies simply don’t have the resources to make that a priority. If that’s the case, it could mean that if you take the initiative, you could start to make changes. While you can’t ensure all women are paid the same as men, you can start support groups, help educate people on how things like bias works, and start these tough conversations so that if and when resources become available, the company or organisation’s ready to go.Change starts with a story.