This post was contributed by Susan Wells, freelance business writer.
Editor’s note: While some may not consider this topic to be part of transformational leadership and/or leadership development, there has been a consistent conversation for decades on the needs of the family, especially the mother, while maintaining a career. We have decided to include this topic in our leadership series as we feel the necessary changes will have to come from the C-Suite on down — only God knows for how long the necessary changes have been attempted to be pushed up to the C-Suite to the very people their company says will provide for the needs for maintaining their family when they were hired.
The workforce globally will shrinking by 30% (or more in some areas) between 2012 and 2020 yet many countries have an entire half of their population that is being ignored for various reasons and beliefs. When taking into account the total number of eligible people that can work between the ages 18 to 65 years of age and comparing that to the total number actually working, one can easily summarize that we don’t have a workforce or resource problem. What we have is a skills problem as more than half of that eligible population are sorely short on knowledge and talent.
All of this means there is an added demand on young families to produce more with less as well as somehow balance a family in the interim. C-Suites need to own and acknowledge the fact that protecting their worker’s families will protect their own future as well as provided an immediate benefit of increasing their own chances of employee retention — least they discover too late that their top talent is working for their competition that does.
Leadership needs to change with change -- and yet still discern what and which principles should not be forsaken.
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Recently, the Atlantic Monthly published a controversial feature, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”, in which author Anne Marie Slaughter argues that, for all our rhetoric about women having real opportunities in the workplace, not a whole lot has changed in the past few decades.
More specifically, Slaughter says that maintaining a true work-life balance is not yet a reality, because most employers only pay lip-service to supporting their employees and their families.
While I believe that changing this work-life imbalance must occur on the level of state and government policy, employers can still do something about it.
Here’s how to create a women-friendly workplace…
Most Work Places Are Now Internet Savvy
We live in the 21st century, and there are very few information-based jobs I can think of that can only be done from a very specific location.
Of course, there’s value in having all your employees centrally located in one office, since it creates camaraderie and unity.
Instituting a work from home policy, if appropriate, demonstrates that you are a flexible employer who values quality work over “rules” that don’t necessarily make sense.
Of course, a work from home policy need not mean that employees can work from home all the time. But it should be an option, especially for women (and men) who have families.
Myth: Quality Work Does Increases With Increased Work Hours
Don’t glorify staying at the office late – encourage the efficient use of time.
Many employees feel as though they need to demonstrate they are working hard, instead of actually working hard.
This idea arises from the fact that employers often equate staying late in the office to hard, quality work.
But when employers glorify staying late, a situation is created in which all employees feel pressured to stay as late as they possibly can to show their worth.
Instead of praising those who stay late, praise those who work efficiently and leave after a job well done.
Be Sure Your Health Services Offer Women-Centric Services
Choose health insurance providers for employees that cover services important for women.
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Although you may not realize this, health insurance providers really do vary from company to company.
If you provide health insurance for your employees, select a provider which offers services that are important for women specifically.
Some providers are more flexible in offering affordable care for services like family planning, pap smears, and other related services.
Focus On Employees’ Needs As Well As Ambition
Refrain from making assumptions about women with families.
One excellent point that Slaughter notes in her article is that employers make assumptions, even if they don’t realize it.
Slaughter offers the example of two equally talented and competent employees, one who does marathon running in his spare time and one who cares for her very young children.
The assumptions made about the marathon runner is that, since he wakes up very early before work to run, and sometimes runs after work, too, he must be very disciplined and ambitious.
Even though a mother’s work requires the same amount (or even more) discipline and tenacity, employers don’t make the same character assumptions about women with families.
These assumptions, whether we realize it or not, often play a role when it comes time for promotions and raises.
Ultimately, creating a women-friendly workplace isn’t just about women. It’s about supporting fathers and families, and reinstating values that are important for the functioning of our entire society. If employers can help in this respect, they by all means should.
What do you think? Should employers create a workplace that encourages & supports their female workforce? Let us know in the comments below!
About Our Guest Blogger
Susan Wells, freelance writer Susan is a freelance blogger who seems to have been swallowed up by the internet highway — we can’t find her in any of her previous social media platforms. If you know of – or are – Susan Wells, let us know and we’ll update this profile (just provide us with the original email address that was used for this post for verification purposes).
If you’d like to guest post for The HRIS World, contact us for details about how you can share your tips with our community.
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