International Women’s Day: 8 things employers must do to better support women at work

International Women’s Day is a great time to remind ourselves of the ongoing challenges that women continue to face in the workplace and employers attempt to make strides towards truly equal work experience.

While today’s modern workplace has advanced compared to past generations, the fact remains that gender disparities still exist. There is still a noticeable gender pay-gap and there should be more female voices in leadership positions and boardrooms.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’, which highlights the importance of taking concrete actions to foster inclusivity and empower women in their professional lives. It serves as a reminder that advancing gender equality isn’t just a moral imperative – it also makes good business sense.

Research from McKinsey found that businesses that are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are 25 per cent more likely to have higher financial returns than businesses that don’t.

Offering gender-neutral language and policies will lead to a more inclusive workplace. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

However, if total inclusion was an athletics event, it would be a marathon and not the 100m sprint. Change takes time and involves more than a yearly training session to serve as a tick-box excercise.

Here are a handful of steps business leaders can take to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for women.

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Implement gender-neutral policies and practices

Start by reviewing and revising existing policies and practices to ensure they are gender-neutral and free from biases. This includes the wording in the recruitment, hiring, promotion, and compensation processes.

Showing salary bands in job adverts is an easy step toward closing the gender pay gap that still hovers around 14 per cent in the UK alone.

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Address the stigma around the menopause

Menopause affects a significant portion of the workforce, yet it is still often surrounded by silence, stigma and misconception which further negatively impacts an already difficult time.

The CIPD found that 67 per cent of people going through menopause felt that it had a negative impact on their work. To address the stigmas, employers need to take proactive steps to address this issue by implementing policies that provide flexible working arrangements, access to resources such as counseling and creating an open dialogue to normalise discussions about the menopause.

It’s also important to note that trans men also experience menopause, so using gender-neutral language in menopause policies is crucial to ensure that everyone is supported during this transitional time in their lives.

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Provide equal opportunities for development and advancement

Offer training, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities specifically tailored to women’s needs and interests. Female employees should be encouraged to pursue leadership roles and provide support and resources to help them develop the necessary skills and confidence. Additionally, ensure that promotion and career advancement decisions are based on merit and qualifications, rather than gender.

Remember that visibility is key: If someone can see themselves in leadership roles, they are more easily inspired to achieve similar career goals.

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Foster a culture of inclusion and belonging

Workplaces must promote a culture of open communication, respect and empathy to create a supportive and inclusive culture where all employees feel valued and respected. This type of encouragement needs to start at the top and then trickle down.

There also must be stringent policies that tackle any instance of discrimination, harassment, or micro-aggressions.

Offering mentorship to female colleagues can bring about inclusion. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

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Establish supportive policies for parental leave and childcare

Businesses need to acknowledge that having supportive parental policies goes way beyond maternity leave.

Truly supportive policies champion and empower working families, and that includes LGBTQ+ parents and families that have children via adoption or IVF. Offering extra leave for caring responsibilities and lactation suites within the workplace are two easy steps to support women after having a child.

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Invest in training

Empower all employees, especially senior leaders and line managers with comprehensive DE&I training.

When an entire business unit understands the unique challenges faced by women in the workplace they can foster and equip employees with the tools and strategies to promote inclusivity and allyship.

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Offer flexible working arrangements

Women are still serving in dual roles as professionals and caregivers in a higher proportion than men. Offering flexible working arrangements like hybrid or remote work allows for a better work-life balance.

Offering flexible working arrangements can lead to a better work-life balance. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

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Advocate for pay equity and transparency

Regularly review and analyse compensation data to identify and address any gender pay gaps within the organisation.

Ensure that salary and compensation decisions are based on objective criteria and transparent processes, and commit to closing the gender wage gap by offering equal pay for equal work.

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