The impact of the pandemic on women is an issue for everyone in the economy, as under-representing women in the workforce deprives businesses of much-needed skills, leadership and resources. Today, it’s crucial for employers to support the women in their workforces with greater focus on changing prevailing gender dynamics in the workplace. Here are actions steps that can be implemented immediately by organizations to support gender parity.
Communicate the benefits
Advancing toward gender parity in the workplace is far more than the right thing to do. The data is clear: Companies with women at the top perform better. And in the private sector, numerous studies have found that having more women in the workforce and a greater gender balance of female leaders improves productivity share performance, business results and overall economy
Recognize the obstacles women historically face at work—lack of role models, gendered career paths, and lack of access to sponsors and influential networks—and identify ways to remove them. This starts with active listening; the best leaders ask women what they need to succeed.
Make work-from-home work
As we’ve seen over the last year, management can be done in new arrangements. Find ways to build flexibility into roles previously seen as inflexible.
Start with YES
Succession planning must be bolder. Instead of saying, “She doesn’t have the experience,” ask, “What do we need to make it work?” Challenge assumptions.
Leadership owns it
To demonstrate commitment to getting women into leadership, change must be led from the top. Leadership must also be held accountable by making progress measurable.
Make goals measurable
Leaders must know exactly where they need women to be. Looking at macro numbers is not enough. Articulate a talent legacy—how things will change and what it will look like by when.
Focus on output
Upgrade your performance evaluation processes and metrics to ensure a focus on outputs and, crucially, do not include assessments from periods of lockdown when childcare was unavailable.
Identify adjacent skills sets for new roles
Demonstrate how short bursts of training and upskilling can accelerate people from one job to the next.
Approach learnability as the great equalizer
Now is the time to focus on helping employees develop technical skills at speed and scale, while also hiring people with learnability—the desire and ability to learn new skills. This can make a real difference in shaping a future in which everyone can be ready for high-growth roles.
Hire for soft skills
When looking for those employees with learnability, look for soft skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, curiosity. These are the most valued—and the hardest to find—human strengths in today's job market and employees who have them make smoother transitions to new roles or careers.
The good news is that the future that women say they want for work is closer to what research indicates all workers want—more flexible, virtual, trusting and integrated. More equal.