There’s a hiring problem across many male-dominated sectors: finance, tech, energy, manufacturing…to name just a few. This lack of sufficient recruitment when it comes to female talent is definitely compounded by poor retention practices at a whole host of major companies. This is often due to an entrenched Bro Culture that still persists well into the 21st century. But the way that rank-and-file members of any organization treat others is very often due to the message they receive (whether explicitly or implicitly) from the top. In other words, if you work for a company that has no sexual harassment policy, then words and actions that objectify women will thrive. And it’s just as true that if your company demonstrates that it has no desire to allow women to ascend to corner offices, then any women who do get a foot in the door will soon leave on their own for greener and more hospitable (not to mention more personally profitable) pastures.
One of the fastest ways to drive women away from your organization is to enact or maintain a set of policies that perpetuate gender inequality. Though changes are on the horizon, as we all know, women are still expected to carry the bulk of the burden when it comes to caring for their families, (even as they strive to meet the demand to put in as many hours at work as their male counterparts). Does your business set up obstacles to gender equality through its basic policy-making? Can you do better? Consider this list at length, but for starters, examine the following:
- Are you actively trying to prioritize the hiring of women? If so, is this well-known both inside and outside of your organization? If a company is known for its equality culture, then it’s naturally going to attract more women. If it is known as a mid-20th century chauvinists’ haven, then women aren’t going to be lining up to try to get in. Since when is it smart business to close yourself off to half the population?
- What sort of family leave policy do you have? Is your company one where a woman has to make a choice between work and family? If so, and she chooses family, her talents are lost to you forever. Do you have a paternal leave policy? Taking this step is not only a kind and inclusive thing to do, it also sends the message that you think that it’s only right that both parents can and should share in the duties of caring for children. This is a positive, yet indirect way to alter employees’ mindsets for the better.
- How about your policies on working from home? What about extended travel? Again, since women are still expected to be the primary caregivers in their families, they already have the burden of maintaining a home placed more heavily on them. You only make that load more onerous through inflexible workplace rules. An employee’s ideas are just as valuable via Skype as they are in person.
Attracting talent across the board, retaining the best of the best among the employees you’ve found, and positioning yourself to customers and other companies as an inclusive (and therefore all-around friendly) place to do business is not only progressive, fair, and just; it’s also just plain smart.