Women in the Workplace
Despite the progress in recent decades, women remain underrepresented
in top management ranks.
What makes a company a great fit for a woman? Companies that are welcoming to women and inclusive of them have a variety of similar characteristics. These are critical for recruiting and retaining female talent.
Here are some consistent patterns among companies considered to be more welcoming to women.
Diversity in management
Many progressive companies have a strong representation of women in middle and senior management, as well as on the board of directors. Many of these companies work hard to recruit and retain women for leadership positions. They look internally to identify and develop those with high potential.
In addition, they also have strong mentoring programs that are tracked for impact on engagement, retention and promotions. Many of these mentoring relationships are preceded by cross-cultural training sessions for the mentor and mentee. Some companies have sponsors among senior managers, mentors who commit to long-term relationships with women who aspire to ascend the corporate ladder. Many of these companies also enlist men as full partners in these mentoring and sponsorship programs.
Generous maternity and adoption leave policies are great incentives for attracting female talent, but they are just a beginning. Some companies instruct their managers to work with employees to understand what best meets their needs and to explore the possibility of flexible work arrangements, including telecommuting. Others offer workplace accommodations for women, such as lactation rooms. Some have a buddy system or support groups for moms either through a mentoring program or an employee resource group.
Many companies are aggressive about ensuring that the message of being workplace friendly to women filters down to mid-level managers. This is important because while the CEO and senior executives may be supportive of flexible work arrangements, there will likely be managers who are old fashioned, are not comfortable with flexible work arrangements and insist on having team members at the office. Stronger messaging at every level about the importance of flexibility as a retention and engagement tool could help alleviate some of these issues. Senior executives who use flexible schedules should be cited as role models to help bring the message home.