Dr Jan Smith is a leading chartered psychologist, she is the founder of Healthy You Ltd.
Having gender equality within teams is undeniably beneficial. When women are recruited into teams and senior positions, there is a boost in productivity and profitability.
Over the past 15 years, there has been significant progress in women having more senior leadership positions across different industries. For example, the FTSE boasts that 50% more women now sit at board level than five years ago. While this is a welcomed change, don’t let the numbers fool you because the real story lies behind them.
Gender diversity is lacking, with women from different ethnic backgrounds disproportionately represented. Furthermore, menopause symptoms force women out of the workplace, with more than 1 million having to leave their careers. Given this age group is the fastest-growing demographic, more needs to be done. Many women believe that going on maternity leave negatively affects their careers. Consequently, they are reluctant to start a family and can experience stigma from colleagues when pregnant. Although there has been slow and steady progress for women in competitive industries, the covid pandemic halted this. During this time, women tended to take on more familial responsibilities while juggling their jobs. As a result, women felt more physical and emotional challenges than their male colleagues during this time. In particular, working mothers, women in senior management positions, and black women were more adversely affected.
Tips for Employers
Supporting women in the workplace is immensely beneficial to the organisation. Below are some suggestions to achieve this.
Progressive diversity, equality, and inclusion policies: increasingly, younger women are looking at how employers embed diversity, equality, and inclusion into their organisations. This might take the form of flexible working hours and tailored absence policies.
Create emotionally safe workplaces: when these are in place, topics such as menopause can be openly discussed without fear of retribution or stigma.
Training: understanding the difficulties female employees experience and ways to overcome these is a proactive step to creating an inclusive organisation.
Range of support: what might be helpful for one person will be less beneficial for another and vice versa. Therefore, having a range of support women can access will be useful, like support groups, occupational health, and digital solutions.
Tips for Employees
There are many strategies you can implement to flourish in the career you want to have.
Know your worth: your confidence will not always be high, and so at times when it’s lower, you might feel more vulnerable to questioning your worth and value in your role. When you notice this, think of a time when you were more confident; how did you hold your body, project your voice, and feel. Try to replicate this at times when your confidence has taken a dip.
Boundaries: disclosing personal information and experiences is unnecessary to gain your employer’s support. Be clear on what you want to say and what you don’t, and rehearse the conversation either in your head or aloud with someone you trust.
Saying ‘no’: when you witness colleagues’ careers progressing faster than yours, there might be a tendency to say yes to any requests or demands made by your organisation. Excessive workload is one of the most significant contributing factors to burnout. Therefore, learning to ‘no’ can be positive in protecting your mental health and wellbeing.
Champion others: women face more challenges in the workplace than men. Wherever and whenever you can, champion those women around you. Words have the power to build confidence and self-belief, and sharing these with female colleagues, can have a long-lasting positive impact.
Females in the workplace, who are recognised for their contribution, rewarded for their contribution, and recruited to leadership positions, have a powerful influence on many aspects of businesses. In addition, given the highly competitive recruitment marketplace, employers with a strong record of inclusivity will undoubtedly be an attractive offering.