This year’s International Women’s Day, on March 8, provides the perfect opportunity for companies to reflect on how they can further empower their female employees and determine what more they can do to improve the world of women in the workplace. As a female founder and CEO, I know firsthand the struggles that come with being the lone female in the room.
In many ways, the concept of “women empowerment” has become cliche and hasn’t led to substantive change. However, my view is that anyone in a leadership role can make small impacts that, over time, create meaningful results.
Here are some of the ways I try to achieve this on a daily basis:
Make a point to diversify positions of leadership.
Diversity starts with positions of power. How can female voices be heard or considered if there are only men in executive positions? In 2021, only 41 of the Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs, which is only nine more women than in 2017.
Multiple studies have shown (subscription required) that women in C-suite positions have a positive impact on the overall performance and efficiency of the company, with higher profits and better returns for shareholders. Amplifying diverse voices from the top down is the key to creating an inclusive and safe environment, as well as promoting peak performance and company culture.
Mentor and support other women.
I have always made mentorship a priority and tried to pay it forward for all the women who have supported me along my career journey. Whether it be the newest intern, employee or even my own daughter, it is critical to create a space of trust, honesty and support. Providing advice and mentorship to younger female co-workers can be a catalyst to their personal and professional development.
Implement fair and inclusive policies.
It’s important for organizations to walk the walk. Make sure your organization has a standard where all—regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation—receive the same treatment. Also, take steps to ensure female and maternal health are recognized and accounted for, pay men and women employees equally and fairly, and hold female employees’ opinions with the same regard as you would for their male counterparts.
Promote an environment of safe and open communication.
As a leader, it’s important that your employees feel comfortable talking to you openly and honestly about their experiences. Feedback in any capacity can help you grow as a leader and enable your company to improve as a whole.
Open communication also means clearly setting and defining guidelines for what type of communication and behavior is permitted at your company, and then enforcing those boundaries. Ensure all employees undergo periodic training and are easily able to contact the proper resources or leaders in the company. This will help create a supportive environment that will allow women to thrive.
Provide accessible resources for women.
The reasons women refrain from reporting harassment or even assault in any environment, aside from the emotional stress and trauma, often stem back to the lack of accessible resources and a daunting reporting process. Employers should make sure that reactive processes are clear, easy and comfortable for all.
While International Women’s Day offers us the chance to reflect on how to empower women everywhere, it shouldn’t stop and end with this day. If made, these changes can make a year-round difference.