March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day falls during the second week of Women’s History Month in the United States, and according to the official website, marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day aims to be a diverse and inclusive occasion that promotes discussion about gender, injustice and inequality.
IWD has been around for more than a century. It began as National Women’s Day in the United States in 1908 and became international three years later, in 1911. But the world has yet to achieve its mission. Around the globe, legal systems that do not ban violence against women, do not protect women’s rights in marriage and family, do not provide them with equal pay and benefits at work, and do not guarantee their equal rights to own and control land, continue to exist. And, according to a report from the World Economic Forum, may continue to operate for generations to come.
Some facts about women’s economic rights and opportunities around the world from World Bank:
- Approximately 2.4 billion women of working age are not afforded equal economic opportunity.
- 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent the full economic participation of women.
- In 86 countries, women face some form of job restriction and 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work.
- Globally, women have only three quarters of the legal rights afforded to men.
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters. Huge numbers of women left the workforce in 2020, significantly higher numbers than men, and the gender pay gap barely budged in that time. The Pew Research Centre reported that 2.4 million US women left the workforce between February 2020 and February 2021, compared with 1.8 million men. Globally, 54 million women left the workforce in the first year of the pandemic. Also globally, Oxfam International estimated that women lost at least $800 billion in income. Bloomberg reported that this loss was largely attributed to the representation of women in the hardest hit industries, like retail and tourism. Meanwhile, many women also left their jobs to care for children while schools, nurseries, and daycares were shuttered. And we have yet to recover from these setbacks.
We may not think we can have a big impact on the state of the world but, as a women founded and led company, we at Raymond George think it’s important to mark this day and use it to reflect on how we can all make our workplaces welcoming to women.
After all, despite the fact that a mere 10% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs (the leap to more than 10% in 2023 for the first time in history was lauded as an accomplishment), research shows that companies with female leaders are more profitable.
Here are five tips to make your workplace more welcoming to women and attract more female candidates.
Implement flex work policies. According to a 2022 study from YouGov titled Workforce Insights, women want to work from home more than men do. A survey of 4,000 people in the US asked about the importance of being allowed to work from anywhere and found that 71% of women said that it was at least moderately important compared to 66% of men. Flexibility in working hours was also important to women with 57% saying it’s very important compared to 44% of men. Women do the bulk of the childcare when there are children in the home. Globally, women took on 173 additional hours of unpaid child care during the pandemic lockdown (a contributing factor to so many leaving the workforce), compared to 59 additional hours for men. The gap was wider in low-and middle-income countries, where women cared for children for more than three times as many hours as men did, according to Fortune. A report from O.C. Tanner also found that flexibility was a benefit female employees want.
Offer career development. Career development placed as the second most important benefit for women in the O.C. Tanner report. HRD quotes Meghan Stettler, director of the O.C Tanner Institute, as saying, “Organizations have to offer something better: special projects, stretch assignments, leadership opportunities, and personalized environment for growth and development.” Asking important questions like “What role would you love to do – whether it exists or not – and what can I do as your leader to champion your development in this company?” reportedly “increases the probability of great work by 85%.”
Stand up to sexual harassment. According to a January 2021 Rights of Women survey, 45% of women surveyed in England and Wales said they had been sexually harassed on online work platforms since March 2020. And the 2022 Gender Equality in the Workplace report by Randstad, which surveyed 6,000 working adults, found that 72% of women had either encountered or witnessed inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues at work, and that 67% had experienced gender discrimination in some form. Implement zero tolerance sexual harassment policies and enforce them so that people can feel safe at work.
Share salary ranges for posted positions. Research reportedly has found that, while salary and benefits information is ranked as one of the most important parts of a job description for both men and women, it is 10% more important to women. Researchers state that, “When an employer is upfront about salary transparency and shares salary ranges, it’s a signal that they are committed to fair pay.” Separate research has also found that salary disclosure improves gender pay equality.
Check for gender bias in your job postings. One study found that gender-biased language discourages as many as one in two female candidates, and consciously unbiased job specifications help to attract up to 50% more female applicants. The research found that changing the language used in the description resulted in a 200% uplift in female applicants. There are online tools that will check for gender-baised language in your postings, like Gender Decoder and Gender Bias Decoder.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #embraceequity.
Even small changes can make a difference.