Firstly, let me start by being thankful that I was not born in my mother/grandmother's era when there were limitations with career choices and progression through the ranks!
Some women prefer being 'stay-at-home' mothers; some are raising young families solely without the distractions of the workplace, well done to them. Being at home is hard work!
Some women like myself, juggle home and work life though it could be challenging at times. I would not trade either roles for anything else. The experience and growth from my role as a full time working mother is immense. Striking a work-life balance is the key to maintaining some sanity! Also, ensuring that I did not return to work too early after taking maternity leave was useful. I always took a full year of maternity leave when I had my children which allowed me to be mentally and physically ready to resume work. Everyone's case could be different though. As time goes on, the situations may change as women in the category of child bearing are more likely to ask for flexible work arrangements in order to attain a healthy work-life balance.
Some women take part-time jobs to allow them the flexibility of organising their working hours around their family responsibilities. Although I work full time now, I had to reduce my working hours when my children were much younger for the reason of working around other responsibilities. Such requests for flexibility contribute to gender inequality as women as usually discriminated against at the point of employment. This obviously brings about the dreaded inequality in the workplace. Equality, acceptance and pay disparities are rift in the business world; women still experience difficulties in getting the recognition they deserve in employment. They also face challenges in being noticed and credited for the work they have completed. Women are not typically in high positions and are less represented in the board level and senior management. The figures are gradually improving as there are some breakthroughs in women outstanding achievements. For example, Constance Briscoe (born 18 May 1957) was one of Britain's first black female Judges in England.
Women in the workplace tend to understate their ability and attribute their success to other people, while men are known to create wealth through business ventures. The richest billionaire woman in the world is Alice Watson, an America heiress of Walmart who is worth 54.4 billion Dollars, is involved with the family foundation, giving millions of moneys to support schools. Another female billionaire is Yang Huiyan, a Chinese lady, who generated her wealth from real estate business founded by her father. She owns 37% of the company. Susanne Klatten, German heir to the car marker BMW has a net worth of $16.8 billion. She is the sole owner and the deputy chairman of a pharmaceutical and specialty chemicals corporation. In the United Kingdom, Florence Nightingale was the first female whose picture was put on the £10 note. She was known for her contribution in modernising the nursing practice.The female image on the new Twenty Pound note is Queen Elizabeth II.
How can organisation improve the employment experience for women?
Training & Development: This is a way of demonstrating the value placed on female employees by closing the skill-gap in the work place. Training and development increases retention, staff would not want to look elsewhere for development in the job role. Employees who are well trained by their organisation are most likely to stay longer. I remember one job interview I attended some time ago in which I met both the essential and desired requirements, I was asked if I was fine to take part in a "training needs analysis," of course I agreed to it! Needless to mention, I stayed in that organisation for an exceptionally long time! Developing my career was and still is an essential part of my growth mindset!
Encourage personal growth: Staff should be given the opportunity to learn from mistakes and gain insights to why the failure occurred and try new ways to solve the problem. This would increase their confidence, determination and perseverance which would support the next task.
Giving Feedback and Encouragement: It is always good to share ideas, to give and receive feedback. Encouraging feedback is a way of working towards a shared goal while adapting to the requirements of others.
Building an inclusive organisational culture: Employees would enjoy the work environment when they are treated fairly irrespective of their gender. Where there is no discrimination against women in the workplace, both male and female staff work as part of a team with dignity and respect. All staff collaborate to make a difference. This improves the employee experience and extends their employment in the organisation.
Creativity and fun at work: Yes, women too can have fun in the workplace! This can be achieved by attending lunch time activities, staff meetings, working lunch. I have worked in places where the work was challenging but there were times for fun, such as going out at lunch to celebrate staff birthday lunches, Christmas party which was always a hit or even after work exercises or netball games, mingling, chatting and laughing. People shared stories, learnt from one another through interaction.The balance was right, we still got the job done, with a feeling of accomplishment. Strive for innovation: Women should not be afraid to attempt raising some innovative ideas due to fear of rejection. When we fail, we are given another opportunity to grow and try new solutions to solving the problems.
To empower women in the workplace, employers could: -
1. Eliminate bias towards female employees and accept gender diversity
There are already policies and procedures in place to tackle gender bias and correct any issues from the bias. However they need to be fully embedded into the organisational culture.
2. Manage Diversity in the workplace
I believe in having role models of successful women in the workplace. This will inspire other like-minded staff to strive for similar or even better success journey. One way of doing so is having ambitious women in senior management roles. When women are promoted at the same rate as their male counterparts, it shows that the women also posses valuable skills and talents that are required by the organisation. It is also good to recognise the contributions and accomplishment of female employees. Celebrating success stories of both male and female employees would give credit where it is due. This would strengthen the work ethics and give greater results. 3. Support Professional Development
Employers should not only invest in diversity and flexible working but should go a step further to develop mentorship programs which would support the building of lasting working relationship and future success rate.
Employers should also invest in sponsorship whereby senior employees could use their power and influence to help other women develop their profession and "move up the ladder". Some people would call this "who you know" and it allows for the speaking of accomplishment behind closed doors and often results in promotions.
4. Offer Flexible working place
This helped me raise my young family as it allowed me find the perfect balance as a working mum. I also learnt to use my annual leave as time off work to support my children when they had those crucial exams. Currently, with the global Corona virus pandemic still in place, most employers have allowed the opportunity for more flexible working arrangement and I am eternally grateful for that.
5. Arrange Networking Opportunities
I do like building my network of friends and colleagues across the globe, thanks to social professional media sites such as LinkedIn. I often read and make contributions to various articles shared among the group.
6. Accept employees as an individual
Not all female employees are of the same calibre and they should not be expected to behave the same way. Organisations should value the uniqueness of their female employees and ensure they are all supported as the outstanding workers that they are!
7. Aim to close the pay gap
Employers could help close the pay gap by identifying the issue and putting actions in place to resolve it such way as ensuring staff with similar roles are paid the same. All organisations should work towards narrowing the pay gap between male and female and work towards improving women employability and equality in the workplace. They should promote employment access for women and implement polices that are fair to all.
How are you being supported at work?