Today is International Women’s Day! While all employees should be treated equally and with respect every day of the year, today we want to discuss compensation, cultural and professional development practices that affect women in the workforce.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, with a focus on accelerating the push for gender parity. This theme is especially timely given the increasing attention and legislation aimed at equal pay practices, parental rights and fighting workplace harassment.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the women on your staff on International Women’s Day, then good for you! However, rather than simply defaulting to flowers, cards or free lunches, we recommend you take the opportunity to think beyond March 8 and assess how you can establish gender parity throughout the year. Below are three areas to consider:
To ensure that you fairly compensate your female employees for their work, review your compensation practices, preferably as part of an attorney-client privileged exercise. Pay equity is not just a moral necessity but also, as discussed further in the TriNet blog on equal pay, a legal requirement, with federal, state, and even some local laws weighing in. In reviewing your compensation practices, make sure to look for pay disparities between men and women who perform similar functions. If there are pay disparities, they should be based on legally permitted reasons, such as merit, seniority, cost of living, or other bona fide factors, including relevant skills, training, experience, or education. If that is not the case, the disparities need to be addressed.
Making concerted efforts to equalize your compensation packages will not only help keep you out of the courtroom but will also help you cultivate a workplace that employees perceive as fair and as truly valuing their contributions. Employees who believe they are treated fairly and truly valued are more likely to take pride in their work, and stick around longer.
2) Work-life balance
It’s no secret that employees of every age and gender would probably appreciate having a little more work-life balance. But how can you create a workplace that makes it easier for your employees to find time to take care of their non-work-related responsibilities? Here are some places to start:
Consider the needs of parents: Many businesses will hire a significant number of people who either already have children or will become parents while in their employ. We know from personal experience what a struggle being a working parent can be.
We have written on the TriNet blog before about best practices regarding employees who are pregnant, those who have just become parents, and new parents returning to work. Many considerations for parents are required by law, but compliance with the law is just a starting point. For employers who are truly serious about creating a more inclusive workplace, we suggest implementing supportive policies and practices such as paid parental leave and accommodations for nursing mothers, even if those policies and practices are not required by applicable laws. Talk to your HR services provider for more information.
Allow for flexible scheduling: While flexible scheduling may not be right for all companies or business models, studies indicate that flexible scheduling can go a long way in equalizing the workplace playing field for men and women. Flexible scheduling doesn’t mean allowing your employees to work fewer hours or letting them slide if they fail to complete assignments. Rather, flexible scheduling empowers employees to shift their hours and their work location, as necessary or reasonable, to accommodate the needs of their families, health and personal obligations. By allowing employees some amount of flexibility in their schedule and location of work, you can do a lot to help women and other employees who may otherwise struggle unsuccessfully to balance their work and personal lives.
Encourage employees to disconnect during off-hours: Last year, France enacted a “right to disconnect” law that basically gives employees the right to disconnect from office business (i.e. emails and phone calls) once their working hours are over. This may seem shocking to Americans because we tend to assume that many employees—even those whose work duties don’t require around-the-clock availability or who must be paid for any time spent on work duties—will work before and after traditional business hours. However, if you are highly interested in supporting work-life balance, you may want to consider putting limits on after-hours work, with exceptions for emergencies and other special circumstances.
It should come as no surprise that, like men, women have professional ambitions. However, women don’t always have the same opportunities. To help women on their journey, you might want to:
Provide professional development: If you aren’t currently offering professional development opportunities, it’s time to start. One reason many great employees leave for other companies is the opportunity for growth and development. We recommend you implement a strong employee development program, which can include such items as leadership development and enhancement of technical skills. Your HR services provider may be able to provide access to learning opportunities, but you can also consider offering employees tuition reimbursement for those pursuing advanced degrees or professional certifications, as well as a budget for attending conferences and workshops. Mentorship programs can also go a long way to helping employees develop their skills.
Promote more women: Take a look at the executives and leaders in your company—are there a disparate number of men at the top of the executive chain? If so, it is probably time to assess why that might be and to consider ways to bolster the number of qualified women in your organization’s top levels.
Truly encourage a respectful workplace: The TriNet blog contains numerous articles on combatting harassment to create a workplace where everyone feels comfortable and safe. Harassment in the workplace is still all too real and deeply concerning, as evidenced by the testimonials shared by participants in the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. To address this problem, your company should not just maintain, but rather emphasize and enforce a written harassment policy that clearly states what behaviors constitute harassment, establishes a complaint and investigation procedure, provides for corrective action as appropriate (up to and including termination of the harasser’s employment), and is compliant with applicable federal, state, and local laws. Your company should also provide anti-harassment training to your employees, certainly where required by law, and preferably even where not required by law.
The competition for top talent is fierce. You want to be able to attract key hires and retain your critical staff. This requires going beyond the old competitive salary and benefits paradigm. Your success going forward depends on your providing not only competitive compensation but fair compensation, as well as a truly meaningful work-life balance, and real opportunity and respect for all. All of this is a must if you want to compete for the best and brightest employees—regardless of their gender.
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