The Business of Empowering Women In The Workplace

Gender equality – we know what those two words mean, or at least we think we do. Fairness for both men and women when it comes to any and all involvement in society with a particular focus on the workplace. There is often talk of ratios, women in executive positions, equal pay and the list goes on. But how about we start with the basics.

Women, are often also mothers. This means that for a period of time, a woman will be busy working whilst growing a human being. Then she is off for a few months to help that human being survive and come to grips with the new world it has entered. Then the fun begins. In most countries after 4.5 short months each woman in this position needs to make some critical decisions. Should she return to work or stay home to raise her child? If she returns to work how will she balance the multiple roles and responsibilities? What if she is indirectly pressured and ‘punished’ both at work and at home? Who will look after the baby? Can she afford to work and pay for childcare? That final question is one that carries a loaded answer in some countries, particularly developed western nations such as Australia, America and parts of Europe. Childcare is so expensive and so disproportionate to the income of a household that it is not viable for the woman to go back to work, purely from a financial perspective. In some cases the cost of childcare is greater than the salary earned. This has the result of keeping highly skilled women, often in the prime of their careers, out of the workforce not by conscious choice but by force. Gender equality? Or indirect discrimination? Or even worse – targeted discrimination?

One of the most important things that we do as human beings – create a human life – is considered as a passing event for male workers with a pat on the back and an expectation to be back on top of things within a few days, but for the woman it is almost always considered an inconvenience whether it is expressed as such or not. Even though studies show it takes 12 months for a woman to recover from childbirth and for her body and her mind to be balanced again, we as a society push so hard that this is ignored. We think that by pushing we are increasing and protecting our bottom line, but in fact we are damaging it. And here’s how.

Hundreds of studies have shown that women contribute in a positive way to the bottom line of companies and to the economy as a whole. Gender equality attracts better talent as more women will feel comfortable working somewhere not male dominated and women are generally more highly educated than their male counterparts. Different perspectives, broader management and gender diversity also contribute to greater profitability.

Need more? The United Nations studies on Economic Empowerment show that when more women work, economies grow and the smaller the gap between women’s and men’s labour force, the faster the economic growth. Yet women still earn on average only 60 to 75% of men’s wages and yet if this wage gap was closed, the global value of this increase in income would equal USD 17 trillion. Allowing more women into leadership roles has also been shown to increase the organisational effectiveness of a company and the implementation of strategic decision making processes.

And yet here we still are. There are some serious systemic failures and inadequacies across the board that must be addressed. Starting from childcare rates that could be reduced or made partly tax deductible, through to changing an archaic mindset that a working mother cannot contribute or will be a burden. People seem to forget that these ‘working mothers’ have not only taken on an extra role, the role of a mother, but are often desperate to be given the chance to revert to their previous roles, teachers, lawyers, assistants, accountants, doctors, administrators and generally to contribute to the society they live in for their own benefit as much as ours.

Successful leaders and some of the largest companies in the world have recognised that an inclusive and gentle approach actually results in increased productivity, focus, determination, drive and commitment from their female employees, ultimately increasing their bottom line, producing a safe and welcoming culture and all round success for all their employees and the company.

Implementing an ethically sound maternity leave policy with some extra perks for your female employees is the right approach. Empower women in the workplace and your business will fly.

If you would like to know more about what we can do for your business, contact us to arrange a free initial consultation at +357 2202 7950 or by email at: aevangelidi@aipeia.com