3 Things Your Workplace Can Do to Empower Women

The power of women in the workplace is by now a no-brainer. From boosting corporate profits to driving innovation, the benefits of are well documented. With the #MeToo movement roiling industries, women are taking the initiative to set expectations about leadership diversity like never before.

But what about the workplace itself? Increasingly, companies are examining their own policies to empower female leadership and driving the conversation on just where that starts. Whether it’s setting clear goals about diversity or putting initiatives in place for female leaders to succeed, these workplace “must-haves” have never been more important.

1. Pay equal wages for equal work and experience

There’s nothing companies understand better than the bottom line. But when it comes to pay equity, women still earn on average 21 cents less on the dollar than their male counterparts. This gap is wider for black and Latina women, who earn 63 cents less and 46 cents less, respectively. Natasha Thapar-Olmos, assistant psychology professor with the online clinical psychology program from Pepperdine University, says when women feel they are being cheated out of fair pay, they don’t feel valued at work. What’s more, concerns over gender wage disparities and a lack of race and gender diversity in executive leadership can lead investors to lose confidence and hurt employee performance.

One simple way to quantify whether a company pays men and women equally is to conduct pay-equity audits, especially on the heels of a recent Trump administration announcement to that it would block an Obama-era rule that required businesses with more than 100 employees to collect and report salary data by gender, race and ethnicity. Companies that champion salary data transparency will assure pay equity and attend to possible wage gaps or other discrimination. “These companies review the pay levels of their employees so that they can see, relative to position, job tenure, education, qualifications et cetera.” said Kevin Miller, senior researcher at the American Association of University Women.

2. Diversify leadership by promoting women to middle management and executive positions

Are there women in the boardroom as well as the E and C suites? Driving women to pursue careers at all levels of the corporate ladder in male dominated fields is important. By promoting women as much as men, you show them they are valuable to the overall structure and are able to grow their skills. According to the online clinical psychology program from Pepperdine University, only 12 percent of executives at Fortune 100 companies are female, and eight of those women are presidents or CEOs.

Infographic created by Psychology@Pepperdine, the online clinical psychology program from Pepperdine University

It may seem obvious, but a diverse workplace can benefit a company’s innovation goals and overall performance. Furthermore, diversifying leadership make it easier to identify issues of discrimination in the workplace. Having a diversity committee is one way to help encourage a productive discussion of identity, power and privilege to the workplace. It also puts empowerment and the ability to bring about change into the hands of those below the executive level, as well as those who may be experiencing discrimination. According to a Catalyst study, Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the board outperform other companies — with 53 percent more return on equity, 42 percent more return on sales, and 66 percent more return on invested capital.

3. Encourage a fair parental leave policy

Amazon recently announced a revamped parental leave on the heels of a New York Times article criticizing the company’s office culture. And Amazon isn’t the only company that’s had to re-examine how it responds to the needs of both female and male workers. Amazon now offers up to 20 paid weeks of leave, the ability to share up to six weeks of paid leave with a spouse or partner, and a flexible return-to-work program.

“Being a mother is the most rewarding — and hardest — job many of us will ever have… (and) for most moms, it’s only one of many jobs we have,” wrote Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg, on her personal Facebook page, calling for improvements in maternity leave and other policies affecting working parents. “We all have a responsibility to help mothers as well as fathers balance their responsibilities at work and home.”

An equitable and robust parental leave policy will take the stigma and complexity out of women returning to work after they’ve had children. And that shared vision and respect for women’s needs will signal success for the future of empowered women in the workplace.

Colleen O’Day is a Marketing Manager and supports community outreach for 2U Inc.’s social work, mental health, and speech pathology programs. Find her on Twitter @ColleenMODay.