Celebrated each year on March 8, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress we’ve made to support women’s rights, and to act on change that can propel the movement forward. At Limeade, we’re focused on providing intentional support to ALL of our employees in work and in life — and that organizational support is what ignited our first “Women in the Workplace” group. Fostering inclusion in the workplace is easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere — what better time than International Women’s Day?
Why International Women’s Day matters
According to their latest annual study, LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. found that women at work continue to be vastly underrepresented at every level. And for those organizations that are not investing in a diverse and inclusive workplace, there will be undeniable setbacks.
Another study from McKinsey found that gender diversity has a positive correlation with both profitability and value creation. Their research showed that top-quartile companies for executive-level gender diversity have a 21 percent likelihood of financially outperforming those in the fourth-quartile, and have a 27 percent likelihood of outperforming fourth-quartile peers in terms of long-term value creation.
Simply put: Investing in a diverse and inclusive workplace is ultimately the best choice for your bottom line. But even with these apparent business benefits, there’s an even more important and impactful reason to invest in D&I: Caring for your people is the right thing to do.
Challenges faced by women in the workplace
The latest Women in the Workplace study found that almost two-thirds of women experience “microaggressions,” or verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights targeted upon marginalized groups, in their workplace.
This discrimination isn’t always explicit, such as saying demeaning comments to a coworker. Oftentimes, these microaggressions present themselves as women having their judgment or expertise questioned, having to provide more evidence for their claims or being mistaken for a more junior position than they actually are.
With this in mind, we’ve outlined four ideas you can adopt to start building a more inclusive workplace at your own organization.
4 Ways to Support Women at Work on International Women’s Day (and Beyond)
1. Celebrate the women on your team
There’s no better time than International Women’s Day to appreciate the women on your team for the work that they do. It’s as simple as calling them out via team chat or email, sending a virtual cheers or kudos, or even acknowledging their hard work before a meeting.
SHRM has found that workforce managers believe that employee recognition helps create a positive workforce culture and employee experience, with 68 percent believing that it helps improve retention rates. There’s great value in making your employees feel appreciated, so be sure to extend this habit beyond International Women’s Day as well.
2. Encourage all team members to bring ideas and perspectives to the table
Enable your employees to be vocal about their perspectives. When you’re in meetings or on calls, ask them for their opinion and input and encourage them to speak up. Far too often people (at times women in particular) will feel overshadowed in meetings, but they’re on your team for a reason and their voice matters.
Not only will this behavior help to build an inclusive culture, but it will also bring new ideas to the table and foster innovation in your organization. ATD found that, “Innovation requires an environment in which ideas can be considered regardless of the source. This can be as simple as making sure that members of a team have equitable ‘air time’ to share ideas.” And we know that inclusive workplaces are six times more likely to be innovative. So, ask the women on your team for their input and build a culture that’s both inclusive and innovative.
3. Check for gender bias
As humans, we all have biases, but what’s most important is that we’re aware we have them. Biases are prevalent in everyone, spanning everything from gender and race to appearance and wealth. But these biases can start to negatively affect our work relationships when we’re not aware of them. The Women in the Workplace study also found that women often think their gender makes it harder to advance. And that women negotiate raises and promotions as often as men do, but don’t always get the same outcomes as men.
These biases can greatly affect how included women feel in their workplace. Try asking yourself where gender bias might be present in your organization and think about how you can address and minimize them. Then act on those thoughts — share them with your team and challenge them to change their behavior as well.
4. Cultivate a culture of respect
Ken Makovsky, founder of communications firm Makovsky, highlighted in Forbes that one of the top things employees look for is respect. In the article he states that an ideal culture is one where both leaders and staff practice the idea of “M.R.I.,” or “most respectful interpretation.”
M.R.I. essentially means coming from a place of understanding and curiosity when interacting with others. If someone says something you might not agree with, instead of challenging their ideas, ask them about it and really listen. If your gut reaction to something is “no,” try saying “tell me more” instead. You have to first understand that people have their own unique perspectives that we each have to respect, and from there you can come to a conclusion together.
March is also Women’s History Month, an even larger opportunity to celebrate women at work. And there’s no better way to do that than to build a workplace where women feel empowered to bring their authentic selves to work — during Women’s History Month and every day. Be intentional about inclusivity. Be intentional about building a better workplace.