How To Create A Path Forward For Female Employees

7/11/2016

While women face numerous hurdles in the business world, organizational leaders and managers can make a difference within their individual spheres of influence. For leaders and managers, working toward gender parity in their organizations is a question of engaging and empowering the women who work for them. One way is to challenge female employees to make a difference in their organization.

Leaders with this goal can ask themselves:

  • Am I challenging women in the organization to take on important roles as much as I challenge men?
  • Do the women in my team have the same opportunities that men do? 
  • Do the women in my organization feel empowered to lead?

Some readers may wonder why it is the leader’s job to facilitate the rise of women in their organization. After all, they may ask, isn’t it personal ambition that should drive women into leadership roles in a company? However, even if the average working woman has the ambition to achieve a position of power at work and take on a leadership role, cultural norms – whether overall society’s or their particular organization’s cultural norms – often thwart those ambitions. Many societies’ cultural norms tell women that being decisive, challenging the establishment and assertively expressing their opinions are not acceptable. These societies, which include both traditional and advanced economies, do not expect, reinforce and reward attributes in women that could put them on a successful leadership path.

Another way female employees are being held back – whether intentionally or not – in the workplace is in terms of compensation.

The grim reality is that statistics show that worldwide, women earn 77 percent of what men do. There are many causes of this, from structural prejudice to subconscious bias when it comes to reviewing female employees’ work. However, one reason is that women do not ask for higher salaries. After all, in many societies and organizational cultures, being proactive about asking for a raise is not a trait that is expected, reinforced and rewarded for women. Recent research shows that more men tend to negotiate their salaries after getting an initial offer than their female counterparts do (52 percent compared to 17 percent). Leaders should pause to think about how this wage disparity impacts the entire talent-management cycle, from hiring, performance reviews and succession planning, to negotiating vacation time and paid leave.

Achieving gender parity in an organization is about creating a culture that promotes equality for all genders. When organizational leaders make an effort to show they expect, reinforce and reward ambition, determination, drive and wage negotiation among female employees, the latter can see a clear path upward.