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U.S.: Organizations Need to Prove They Value Women

U.S.: Organizations Need to Prove They Value Women

by Jane Miller

American women have spoken about what they want.

And organizations have made progress in supporting them in the workplace.

Women are continuing to make progress despite the current wave of leadership and media that sweeps women's issues under the rug.

But over the past 30 years, I've read the workplace research on women (and published a recent, extensive report on it) and I've lived it -- and what I've seen -- is not enough change.

The talk and "programs" fall short on getting a comparable number of women into leadership positions. About half of U.S. women want leadership positions and women make up half of the workforce, but they aren't half of the leadership roles.

Businesses are risking a lot if they don't take a more serious approach to change. They're risking the engagement and well-being of all of their employees, and they're losing their opportunity to develop and retain the next generation of leaders.

So, what is the best way for your organization to prove you value women?

By how many women you have at the top.

Women stay in organizations where they can see that other women are trusted, respected, achieving and contributing in meaningful ways.

Here are three ways to help your organization prove you value women, retain your high-performers long-term and see more women reach the top:

Show Me the Money Math

Women want pay parity.

Women (and men) still say it's one of the biggest challenges facing working women in the U.S., according to the recent International Labour Organization-Gallup study.

It will remain an issue in your organization unless your leadership is transparent about how they tie pay to performance.

It becomes murky in salaried jobs in which managers set the expectation at 40 hours, but the whisper for promotions is 55 to 60.

Leaders need to move away from generalities in these cases and create metrics around performance and outcomes.

What constitutes performance in any given job? What should you be tracking and comparing?

  • outcomes expected to achieve excellence
  • experience needed
  • amount or frequency of the tasks and deadlines
  • hours it takes to accomplish the objectives
  • importance (or not) of tenure
  • talent
  • education
  • rarity of the skill needed to do the job

All of those factors make up how a human is paid. If a woman is doing all of it with the same excellence and volume as a man, you should pay her the same; if she has higher volume or excellence, she should be paid more.

Family responsibilities often don't allow men and women to work a full 40 hours or more every week at a paid job, but does that always equate to lesser outcomes?

Making room for how all employees can work in less hours and still achieve excellence (if they can) -- and be rewarded for it -- is what will make a difference.

If you can't show women the proof that their time and contributions are equally valued, then you have a gap and you need to fix it.

Your best women won't stick around if they don't see equal pay for equal performance.

Show Me I Can Have It All at Your Company

It's not a secret. Women want it all.

Well-being and the C-Suite. Family and career. Growth, stability and flexibility.

Women want it all, but "all" doesn't mean the same to every woman. Not all women want the same thing in the same amount of time.

While the majority of women around the world want or need a job, only 40% of women in the U.S. (with children under the age of 18) want to be in the workplace full time.

On the other side of the spectrum, nearly half of working women (moms included) would like to become CEO or have a senior management or leadership position -- and they are willing to put in the time.

Women want development and movement toward their goals, in the time they have.

And it's not just about flexibility.

  • Some women want the C-Suite but need support to get there through their 30s and 40s while they raise families. The best organizations help women stay on their career trajectory, but also give them the flexibility to focus on their families for a season (and do the same for men).
  • Some women desire responsibility and high achievement; the 50-hour workweek calls their name. The best organizations are listening for who wants advancement opportunities and are encouraging them to take the right steps to get there faster.

  • Some women want steady growth and career development while working less to manage other parts of their lives. The best organizations give more options on when and where their employees can work hard -- and in shorter amounts of time when needed.

  • Some women don't want to be in leadership positions because it's not who they are (or they're not sure if it's who they are). In all cases, the best organizations help women find and do what they do best. Do your performance reviews help your employees have jobs they love without having them "move up?"

Women often feel there are only two options when it comes to career: to climb the ladder, or get stuck forever.

I've come across many women (and men) who struggle because they feel the pressure to "move up." They are pushed into promotions by their company, or push themselves into it, because American society tells them they're not successful otherwise.

But there are many definitions of achievement, and not wanting to move up does not mean your employees are not working hard every day, continuing to grow and getting results for your company.

Ask women what they want now and in the future, help them find the right fit and career path, and identify their talent for leadership -- because this will always be the best approach for you to engage your employees.

It takes adaptability and patience over time. It takes more than creating a "female leadership program" or employee resource program.

Workplaces might not be able to change overnight (although, there's a thought) but the ones that take larger strides to get there are the ones who will win and keep high-performing women.

Ask women what they want -- and then …

Show Me You're Listening

"At work, my opinions seem to count."

Do you know how women in your company would rate that statement?

Mostly likely not as high as men would.

Women across the world, and in some of the top U.S. companies, rate each statement and question on Gallup's employee engagement survey higher than men -- except on that one crucial item.

They don't believe that their opinions count to their organization.

Today, as I am writing this, a friend told me she can give five recent examples of a time she stated a game-changing idea, but no one heard it until a man said it.

It's unquantifiable. But we know it happens.

This is only one example of the "minor" inequities women see in the workplace, and it may take another generation or two to shed the (perhaps) unconsciousness of this bias (both for men and women alike).

However, when you "check the pulse" on your company culture in this aspect, women will know they work for an organization that is aware and seeks to treat equitably, even if they can't eliminate the bias overnight.


The Conversation Has Changed. Will You Be the One to Take Action?

Rightfully so, the conversation is no longer if organizations want or need women, it's "who's going to get and keep the best ones."

We know women bring unique strengths to the workplace and viewpoints that are invaluable in creating thriving organizations. We know the U.S. economy (with 6 million open jobs right now) needs more women in the workplace.

And we know diversity in the workplace leads to profit and revenue growth.

Women have worked hard to prove their value to organizations; now it's time for organizations to prove their value to women.

So, how many women have you supported through their child-rearing years that are now killing it in a management position? How many have stayed, grown and achieved a senior-level position in your organization?

Now's the time to #pressforprogress and #proveit if you want to keep your best female employees and secure the future of your organization.

Learn more about how Gallup can help your organization improve performance with a focus on engagement and inclusion:

Jessica Buono contributed to the writing of this article.

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