At Feminist Frequency, we continually stress the importance of having women at the table in creative conversations. However, our workplaces reflect our greater culture. This means that we see fewer women in positions of power at many companies and organizations.
The tips and resources in this section are meant to assist those members of our audience who have asked for guidance on how to recruit, retain, and promote women in the workplace. We also hope that this will serve as a preliminary guide for institutions who are looking to effect gender equality at all levels.
Creating a culture that attracts and welcomes women takes effort. No matter where you are in your company, this guide can help begin the conversation on next steps. However, it is crucial to understand that, without the support of management, we risk never accomplishing true systemic transformation. For that reason, this information is meant for employers and managers, but can also be used as a call to action. There are many tools available, but sitting around and doing the “same old thing” isn’t one of them. (And on that note, neither is simply creating new policies without enforcing and promoting the ideas throughout the workspace.)
These suggestions are meant to establish a general foundation. The best way to know whether you are doing the best you can for women is by asking and listening to women. If you’re curious about how women feel, find safe and genuine ways to survey their opinions.
10 Quick Tips
TIP #1: Become aware of your own biases, judgments, and privileges.
TIP #2: Invite women to important meetings.
TIP #3: Organize and sponsor a women’s group.
TIP #4: Send announcements about upcoming professional development and offer for attendance at trainings to count as work hours.
TIP #5: Enforce company policy on harassment. Become familiar with the policy and its historical enforcement. Practice zero tolerance with harassment, disrespectful language, interruptions, yelling, etc.
TIP #6: Encourage teamwork, mentoring opportunities, and cross-training. Try pairing new employees with their seasoned co-workers.
Enhance your recruitment practices: remove gendered wording from job descriptions and practice equal pay (read more about this here
TIP #8: Schedule a meeting to review policy; invite women and representatives from all departments (not just management) to the table.
TIP #9: Stand up for women coworkers when you see something inappropriate, disrespectful, or harassing, and encourage others to be active bystanders, taking the onus off of targets/victims. Report gender discrimination, policy violations, and toxic work environment indicators.
TIP #10: Look for opportunities for women to share opinions with management, and prioritize the work environment of women and other marginalized workers.
While the below guides, resources, and studies are by no means comprehensive, we believe they represent a useful starting point for gathering more information about the experience of women in the workplace, and ways that we can all take steps to make sure those experiences are equitable and fair. We’ve broken down everything into four subject sections, with tips and additional reading for each one.
Recruitment & Hiring
TIP #1: Pass along resources (educational and advancement opportunities) to employees at all levels.
TIP #2: Encourage professional development opportunities in diversity training.
ARTICLE: Hire More Women In Tech
: Strategies and actions to help find and hire more qualified women in the tech industry.
ORG: Add Gender AB
: A consulting company that helps companies and organizations improve gender equality and diversity.
TIP #1: Invite women to speak as experts at meetings.
TIP #2: …at the same time, avoid “tokenizing,” or asking one woman to speak on behalf of all women. This also includes pressuring women to speak when they don’t feel comfortable sharing. This point is more about discovering the ways that others dominate conversations, and consciously finding opportunities to encourage women to speak.
TIP #3: Invite a Human Resources representative to explain benefits at staff meetings. Encourage attendance and feedback.
TIP #4: Encourage senior leadership to have lower-level representatives from relevant departments in attendance and include them in planning efforts.
TIP #5: Involve company-wide marketing to encourage women from multiple departments to attend.
TIP #6: Allow group meetings to take place during the workday; consider meeting schedules according to child care needs, such as daycare drop-off/pick-up and school bus times. Respect meeting start and end times. Encourage others to respect timelines.
TIP #7: Talk with employees about their ambitions and foster growth in those areas. Assign them to projects in their desired growth area. Ask them to lead an improvement/innovation effort and put together a team to help them. Pair them with other women in senior-level positions for shadowing and mentorship.
TIP #8: Research local gender advancement organizations, such as rape crisis centers and hate/bias violence victim service agencies, to consult, review policy and offer feedback.
TIP #1: Ask for ideas from women. Increase awareness of who speaks at meetings and open up space for women to share. When problems/issues arise, strategically ask women for their input on solution-building.
TIP #2: Take concerns/complaints about workplace environment seriously. Validate and document concerns. Have resources handy for support and enforcement.
TIP #3: Collect feedback about the work environment using anonymous survey tools such as online surveys and comment card boxes.
TIP #4: Encourage self-care during and after work. Try adding brief self-care exercises to meetings, modeling the behavior of self-care.
TIP #5: Organize or sponsor a women’s group. Encourage and support the efforts of women in the workplace to gather and share their experiences, ambitions, and tools for success.
TIP #6: Foster enthusiasm for continuing education through rewarding attendance. Try offering lunch-and-learns with refreshments, organizing potlucks around webinars, or offering continuing education credits for opportunities when appropriate. Remember that many folks won’t or can’t attend continuing education sessions because of their workload, or perhaps an assumption that completing their task list is more important. However, training is the road to advancement and must be seen as a crucial aspect of creating a more inclusive workplace.
As mentioned before, simply wanting women to be on board won’t be enough. Earnest efforts to include women in the workplace involve looking critically at the organizational system and structure, and committing to making policy and practice changes.
This latter part about commitment to change poses significant challenges. None of us are immune to cultural norms and social expectations–we are flooded with messages about gender stereotypes in a way that impacts everything from beliefs and imagination to language and automatic thoughts. We also learn from and adapt to our workplace subcultures, operating from historical experiences of how certain actions and performances are rewarded or penalized.
Whether you are encouraging women to join your team or are hoping more women in your organization will rise up the ranks, declaring policy change will be insufficient. Administrators need to practice the new system of consequences and praise, leading by example and consistency. They need to demonstrate an openness to change by acknowledging and apologizing for mistakes, and then actively working to correct behavior.
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