Let's face it. The traditional hiring model just doesn't cut it anymore. Employers across Canada are facing a talent scarcity, and it's time for HR leaders to step up their game to attract and retain diverse talent, which includes women. 

Women are essential in creating inclusive, balanced, and diversified workplaces. They bring unique perspectives and skill sets that can lead to innovation and growth within organizations. But a staggering 1 in 3 women feel that little or no progress has been made in achieving gender equality at work.

It's high time that employers celebrate women’s contributions and empower them with equal opportunities, or risk getting left behind. By fostering an environment where women can do their best work, you can directly (and positively) impact your bottom line.

a group of colleagues giving a cake to a woman
a group of colleagues giving a cake to a woman

be intentional about professional development

According to a 2022 study, only 26% of C-suite roles are held by women - a meagre 6-point increase from 2017. Why is this the case? Women often face barriers to career advancement, including unconscious biases, lack of mentorship, and limited access to training opportunities. 

By providing women with equal access to professional development, you can equip them with the necessary skills and experiences to advance their careers. 

Professional development plans also provide women with the support and guidance they need to navigate their careers, build networks, and gain confidence. By prioritizing professional development, leaders can help women thrive in their workplaces and make meaningful contributions to their organizations. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Schedule regular conversations with your employees to understand their goals and aspirations.
  2. Agree on how you will measure performance to help them reach the next level in their career. 
  3. Support skill-building and training opportunities so they’re able to achieve goals in a timely manner.

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prepare to be flexible

Women often juggle multiple responsibilities, including caregiving, and need flexibility to manage work and personal life. To address this, organizations must offer flexible work options, like remote or hybrid work, flexible hours, and split-shifts, to promote a healthy work-life balance for women. 

These flexible arrangements not only improve well-being, but also foster a culture of trust and mutual respect, enabling women to be more engaged and productive in their work. By demonstrating a genuine commitment to supporting a diverse workforce through the provision of flexibility, leaders can position their organization for greater success. 

Other easy ways to be flexible include:

  • Offer compressed workweeks, so women can perform full-time hours in fewer days, giving them more time off to manage their priorities.
  • Offer on-site child care, to make it easier for women with children to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.
  • Provide the option for sabbaticals, to provide women with an extended period of leave to pursue personal or professional development opportunities.

create a safe and supportive environment

Discrimination and harassment have a significant impact on women's well-being, career growth, and overall sense of belonging. Zero-tolerance for discrimination sends a powerful message that such behaviours will not be tolerated and can lead to serious consequences for those who engage in them. 

Promoting a culture of inclusion and respect is not only the right thing to do, but it's also critical: a safe workplace is one where employees want to stay in the long term. Here are simple ways to establish zero-tolerance policies:

  • Develop and communicate a clear policy: Outline what is considered discriminatory behaviour and the consequences of violating the policy. 
  • Provide training programs:  Give practical examples of what constitutes inappropriate behaviour. Employees should be informed about how to identify and report incidents of discrimination or harassment. This creates a culture of accountability. 
  • Take swift action: When discrimination occurs, conduct an investigation, discipline the offender, and provide support to the victim. 

eliminate hiring biases

Biases in the hiring process can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace. This can result in a lack of innovation and creativity, reduced competitiveness, decreased employee engagement, and a negative employer brand. 

Employers must establish fair and objective hiring practices that are free from bias to expand their talent pool, helping women overcome barriers to entry, advance their careers, and drive success for the organization.

  • Use competency-based questions to evaluate a candidate's skills and experience, rather than subjective factors such as their appearance or communication style.
  • Remove any identifying information from a candidate's resume, such as their name, gender, or age. 
  • Interview individuals from a range of backgrounds and experiences. This helps to ensure that different perspectives are considered during the hiring process.

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recognize and celebrate contributions

When employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated, which can lead to higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction. But that’s not all. 

When a woman is recognized for her achievements, it can help to increase her credibility and visibility within the organization. This increased visibility then leads to new opportunities, such as being selected for high-profile projects or leadership roles. 

Recognizing employees - especially a segment of the workforce that has long been under-valued - is essential in creating a diverse and inclusive culture. This recognition can take many forms:

  • Providing opportunities for women to showcase their skills
  • Publicly recognizing their achievements
  • Offering mentorship and sponsorship programs 
  • Granting awards, promotions, or bonuses

offer fair compensation

If you're not regularly assessing and updating your compensation practices, think again. This is a crucial step to ensure that they're consistently fair and equitable. One of the first steps is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of your compensation practices to identify any disparities in pay between men and women. 

This analysis should take into account factors such as job responsibilities, skills, and experience, and should be done on a regular basis to ensure that any issues are quickly identified and addressed.

Another crucial step is to establish clear and objective criteria for pay and promotion decisions, and clearly communicate these criteria to all employees (and their managers). 

This helps prevent bias and discrimination from creeping into the decision-making process. By taking these steps, leaders can help ensure that women in their organizations receive the compensation that in reflective of their work.

To gain insight into salary ranges and begin the process of ensuring salary equity, we encourage you to download our salary guide.

the bottom line

It's clear that women are no longer willing to settle for less, and organizations must step up to meet their expectations. Failure to do so not only risks losing valuable women talent, but also puts the entire organization at a disadvantage in a highly competitive market. In fact, compared to women who feel a sense of belonging, those who report feeling excluded at work are 3x more likely to seek greener pastures.

In a world where sustainable and flexible workplaces are becoming the norm, employers must act quickly to ensure they are offering a work environment that meets the needs of their female employees. 

The future of any organization depends on its ability to embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment that values and supports all its employees.

Would you like to increase your knowledge of the challenges faced by women in the workplace? Check out our articles addressing these topics.

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