IWD 2024: How Can Businesses Help Women Feel More Supported and Engaged at Work?

Posted on Monday, March 4, 2024 by EditorialNo comments

During the Great Resignation, which saw employees voluntarily leaving their jobs en masse, recent statistics revealed that 29% of women thought about leaving their current jobs, reducing hours or dropping out of the workforce altogether.

On the eve of International Women’s Day (Friday, March 8th), many businesses will be wondering how to help more women feel supported and empowered at work.

Caroline Gleeson, CEO at Occupop, leading recruitment software experts, said: “International Women’s Day is a day of celebration and advocacy for women’s rights and equality around the world, but it doesn’t have to end there. This spirit of inclusion can be a springboard to fairer practices all year round.”

Here’s how businesses can mark the occasion and retain their top female talent for the future.

Inspire inclusion

The theme for 2024 is ‘Inspire Inclusion’, which can be embraced on an individual or organisational level – whether that’s striking the #InspireInclusion pose for a selfie or campaigning for wider structural change.

Here is some inspiration for celebrating International Women's Day in the workplace with a purpose:

Run events to honour your female colleagues: A seminar or coffee morning is a great way to catch up with other female employees in a work setting. Get together and share experiences of being a woman in the working world with all its challenges and opportunities.

Encourage your staff to attend wider online events: In preparation for March 8th, research some events specific to your industry to help engage your staff. This may include free online events and guest speakers with expert advice on taking action for the better.

Strike a pose: IWD Organiser invites businesses to encourage their staff to strike a heart-shaped pose of solidarity with their hands. Submit your team’s photos to IWD and get a feature on their global social media channels.

Use free IWD resources: The IWD team has different resources to help you plan. Check out the event pack or book an IWD guest speaker.

Of course, your efforts to inspire inclusion don’t have to end there and can spark an agenda for change:

Understanding the Gender Disparity

The data from Lean In and McKinsey can make for stark reading and points to gender disparity in the impact of the Great Resignation.

But why are more women contemplating leaving the workforce compared to men?

Research from PWC indicates a 14% average pay gap between men and women (by median hourly earnings), which would take over 50 years to close at the historical rate of progress.

This is partially explained by the ‘Motherhood Penalty’ – which describes the loss of earnings experienced when raising children – and is exacerbated by unequal childcare workloads taken on by women in almost every country in the world.

Other commonly cited challenges may include unfair work distribution, limited career advancement opportunities and an inadequate work-life balance.

In light of this, what can be done to address the unique concerns of female employees?

Equal pay and benefits

Ensuring pay equity is a fundamental step in retaining female talent. Progress towards parity has been exceedingly slow over the last decade, and the UK has slumped to 14th in the Women in Work index since 2020.

Businesses can conduct regular pay audits to identify and rectify any pay disparities. Transparent communication about pay structures is also key to building trust amongst your workforce.

This can also be extended to extra benefits, including parental leave, childcare assistance, and female wellness programs.

Building an inclusive company culture

Your workforce must be reflective of the environment in which it operates. Companies must proactively work to eliminate gender biases and foster an environment where women feel heard, valued, and respected.

Your recruitment software can help you here. Caroline Gleeson, CEO at Occupop explains: “Using recruitment software, such as an applicant tracking system, can help eradicate unconscious bias when hiring talent.

“It’s important to understand that human hiring systems may be prone to implicit bias where your talent acquisition team unknowingly overlooks candidates from certain genders, races or physical abilities.

“Unbiased artificial intelligence meanwhile will treat every candidate equitably, sifting through CVs on a purely meritocratic basis.”

This shift to a more diverse workplace can send positive signals to your existing female talent and, in turn, can build loyalty to your business.

Mentorship and Career Development

In 2022 alone, 150,000 female-founded businesses were set up across the UK, providing a great mentorship opportunity network.

Many women face barriers to climbing the corporate ladder due to a lack of mentorship and access to networking opportunities. Combat this by establishing mentorship initiatives that connect female employees with experienced business leaders who can provide valuable insight.

Additionally, organisations should prioritise career development programs to enhance the skills and nurture their female workforce, smashing ‘glass ceilings’ with equal access to promotions and leadership roles. Ensure that women are not limited to entry-level occupations.

Flexible working arrangements

Finally, it’s important to recognise that women often bear a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities. In a 2023 survey by Deloitte, 14% of women who left their jobs cited a lack of flexibility in working hours as their reason for leaving.

Consider incorporating flexible working hours, remote working, and compressed workweeks, as it can empower your female employees to find a work/life balance that suits them.

Conclusion

As UK businesses emerge from the ‘Great Resignation’, prioritising the retention of female talent is imperative. IWD can be the perfect catalyst for a fairer, more representative workforce.

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