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Creating a Workplace that Works for Women: Tips for Leaders

We don’t need another business case on why workplaces should be made more inclusive for women. I believe we are all on board with this.

The challenge many of us face is we don’t know exactly how they can be more inclusive, or for the areas that are glaringly obvious where to start.

Workplaces are not always inclusive for women because of a variety of factors, including implicit bias, discrimination, lack of mentorship and sponsorship, and a lack of flexible working arrangements.

Additionally, the lack of representation of women in leadership roles can make it difficult for women to envision themselves in such positions and create a culture that is not welcoming to women.

Stereotypes and societal expectations can also play a role in creating an environment that is not inclusive for women. Some studies found that women are often seen as less competent, less committed or less suitable for promotions, and even if they do get promotions they face more negative stereotypes. Gender pay gap also exists in many workplaces and can make it difficult for women to progress in their careers.

Actions you take to improve your workplace are not just for the benefit of women, but also for the overall success and productivity of your organisation. Providing a supportive and inclusive environment for women can attract and retain talented employees, as well as promote creativity and diversity of ideas.

Here are some tips to creating more inclusive work environments

"Don't think about making women fit the world — think about making the world fit women” Gloria Steinem

Offering Flexible Working Hours

Flexible working hours are a highly praised perk that everyone enjoys. It is especially impactful for women who are pregnant or have young children. This can include options such as flexible hours, remote working, and job-sharing. Flexible working hours can increase productivity and job satisfaction while also decreasing the likelihood that women will have to leave the workforce.

Create a more inclusive work environments

Often not enough thought goes into the physical space we occupy at work, yet this has a big impact on how we work. Having spaces to rest at work benefits all staff and your overall productivity, but it is especially beneficial for women going through maternity, menopause or period pain. This can make a huge difference in their work experience. Feeling like the only way to manage menopause, maternity or period pain symptoms is to work from home when you want to be in the office is frustrating. Having rest spaces allows them to take the time they need to rest and manage their symptoms without having to sacrifice their career or their health. According to the National Women's Law Center, approximately 18% of women in the workforce are pregnant at any given time, and many more are experiencing menopause or period pain.

Menopause research is finding exclusive work environments are making it hard for women to manage their symptoms, resulting in a large number of talented women leaving the workforce, which can negatively impact on the economy and society as a whole.

Design your working practices and policies to be inclusive

Clearly setting the standard and expectation that you are a workplace that promotes inclusive culture is important. There are a number of ways you can do this such as reviewing your compensation policies and ensuring they are fair and based on qualifications, performance and experience.

Another way is encouraging and supporting employee-led groups to promote diversity and inclusion.

You can also try actively increasing the representation of women in leadership: Organisations should strive to have a more diverse workforce, including women in leadership roles. Having women in leadership positions can help to change the culture of the organisation to be more inclusive.

Often our hiring practices and job descriptions get the same results because we keep doing the same thing. There isn’t a lack of capable women to lead. Organisations should look at what they can do to attract them. A good starting place is to question your job descriptions with scrutiny. Are you unknowingly excluding amazing candidates? Do you really need 10 years experience in a particular domain for that leadership role, or is someone with experience leading people more valuable? Does the role really need to be full time? What can they bring to the organisation if they come from a completely different industry?

This list is not exhaustive, but it can serve as a starting point for making your workplace more inclusive. Keep in mind that inclusion is an ongoing process, and it's important to continuously assess and improve the policies and practices you have.

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