We’ve all heard the scary statistics. Women are leaving the workforce in droves because they can’t keep up with the competing demands of work and family, during a time when the pandemic has added stress and taken away support. Companies have a big role to play in how many women are able to remain in the workforce and how quickly those who leave will return. Essentially, companies need to create an environment that addresses the needs of their women employees and make places of work great places for women. So what makes an employer a great place for women to work, and what should you look for when choosing your next job?
Sixty-nine percent of women have been sexually harassed in a professional setting. Creating a good working environment for women employees means creating a workplace free of harassment and discrimination. Creating a culture where it won’t be tolerated and women won’t be retaliated against for speaking up makes a great workplace for women. It’s one thing to recruit diverse talent, but another entirely to retain diverse talent: that starts with workplace culture and policies. Some companies force employees to sign agreements for arbitration in the event of sexual harassment, to limit company liability. In contrast, companies that respond to complaints with integrity are companies that are great for women.
According to Catalyst, in 2019, the percentage of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29 percent, the highest number ever recorded. The pandemic threatens to erase some of that progress. Organizations that train, develop, and promote women into leadership positions are workplaces that are good for women. When you apply for a job, look at the leadership team. Are there any women? Do you see any women of color? If so, that may be an indication that the organization is willing to invest in the careers of women and promote them. If there aren’t, is the company taking meaningful steps to diversify its talent pipeline and promote a culture where all women can thrive? The answers to these questions can help you determine if a company will be a fit.
In 2018, a woman working full time earned 81.6 cents for every dollar a man working full time earned on average. The numbers only get worse for Black, Asian, and Hispanic women. While the gender pay gap is growing at some firms, other companies have made headlines for having no pay gap at all. It’s becoming increasingly common for large companies to not have a pay gap. Creating a pay structure that supports equity isn’t hard to do and doing so makes it a great place for women.
Managing childcare, especially when schools and daycare centers are closed, and managing a disproportionate share of the household work have contributed to women leaving the workforce. But research shows that having policies and benefit offerings that support women in these domains can go far in providing relief. Benefits for childcare and eldercare as well as flexible scheduling options are some of the factors that create a good workplace for women. Having the ability to facilitate remote learning, take care of a sick parent, or work during times that are convenient can be a game-changer for some women. Creating flexible and empathetic workplaces has shown to be a remedy for women who feel they can’t have it all.
It’s important to remember when seeking out a job opportunity that you should be vetting the company as much as they vet you. Knowing what qualities to look for in an organization will help you make a better choice and possibly have a better experience. Being intentional about the companies we trust with our careers is a prudent decision for any woman looking to climb the corporate ladder.
Finally, creating space for women to build community within the company is critical to the culture and ultimately the retention of women employees. One example of this is an employee resource group for women, where employees have an opportunity to talk about the things that matter to them collectively and support one another. Mentorship, where women identify sponsors and build allies, is another way to help women feel more connected in the organization.
If you Google “great companies for women,” you’ll get plenty of lists identifying specific companies by name, but now you have the tools to identify these types of companies on your own. So next time you’re in-between offers, measure the companies in their commitment to being a great place for women, in addition to your usual criteria, to help find the workplace that will best support you.