If you want your business to perform at its best, it’s important to work to close the gender gap in the workplace. Using your workforce’s full talents gives you a competitive advantage over other businesses. When employees work on diverse teams, they are more likely to exercise their creativity, and they will be more committed. There are several ways you can counteract stereotypes as a business leader.
Fairly Evaluate Performance
Many times, males’ performance is overestimated while women’s is underestimated. Performance reviews bring out this bias, and when the criteria for review are subjective, women are more likely to be impacted. It’s common for women to be evaluated based on what they have already accomplished, while men are evaluated based on their potential to perform well. Make sure those doing evaluations are aware of this type of gender bias and give specific information about what is considered a great performance. Goals should be set before employees are expected to meet them. When you hold others accountable for their actions, they will think things through more carefully before acting.
Give Them Credit
Men often credit their success to their inborn skills and qualities, but women often attribute it to having help or working hard. That’s because women often receive less credit and are more often blamed for their failure than men. This reduces their confidence in themselves, making them even less likely to put themselves forward for projects or promotions that could advance their career. It’s important for women to get the credit they have earned and make sure to acknowledge them in front of the team.
Equip the Next Generation
Don’t just focus on those you work with. Equipping the next generation can help them break negative stereotypes. A practical way of doing this is by helping your kids go to college. Others likely look up to you, and sending your kids to school sets a positive example for others. You can take out a low-rate Private Parent Loan to help pay for their schooling. You can utilize parent loans to your advantage to ease the financial burden on your kids, setting them up for success.
Make Meetings Count
Men tend to speak up more in meetings than women, and women tend to be given less credit and are interrupted more often. But if you don’t have full participation in your meetings, you won’t be able to take advantage of everyone’s expertise and knowledge. This can undermine team performance. If someone is interrupted, ask that she be allowed to finish. If you notice people not contributing to the conversation, openly ask them to do so. Keep track of ideas put forth by different colleagues so you can tell if another person is stealing an idea. Try to acknowledge those who first put forth ideas.
Split Work Evenly
Women take on more busy work in the office, such as training new employees, taking notes, and organizing things. However, too much busy work can take time away from other tasks, and it prevents the employee from fully participating. If someone is busy taking notes, they may not have time to fully process the information and come up with a great idea. This can take away from a woman’s career progression. Keep tabs on who is doing what to make sure this busy work is distributed evenly among the team, both male and female employees. If someone takes on extra work, they should receive an additional reward.
Help Out Mothers
When a woman has a child, too many people automatically assume she is not as committed to her career. She might not receive as many assignments, or she may be held to an impossible assignment. But this isn’t limited to mothers. It also applies to fathers who take paternal leave and women who are getting ready to be married. Many women also start leaving the workforce before they are ready. They may avoid applying for promotions, turn down projects, or take a flexible career path that limits their options too early on. This removes opportunities and closes doors before they become mothers. The best way to avoid this is to not make any assumptions. Just because a woman has a baby does not mean she isn’t willing to travel or take on more difficult projects.
Avoid messages that have underlying biases, such as saying you don’t know how they can handle both work and motherhood. This can imply that their place is in the home. Let employees know you support their decisions to become parents, even if it means taking leave from work. Consider creating an open-door policy, allowing employees to talk about parental leave needs and starting a family. If you already have kids, don’t be afraid to talk about the time you spend away from work with your family. This shows others it is okay for them to do the same.
Let Others Know It’s Okay to Negotiate
Many women face challenges with negotiating that their male counterparts don’t. It’s expected for men to be assertive, and negotiating is seen as part of that, but women are more often expected to be collaborative, so if they do advocate, they may not be treated as favorably. Ensure all female employees are encouraged to advocate for themselves and negotiate. They should be applauded for standing up when they do so. It’s also important to make sure everyone is being compensated at the same amount, as they may not have negotiated for their salary.
Mentorship can benefit anyone, and it’s one of the key factors in advancing one’s career. Still, many women struggle with finding mentors, especially those who already have influence. It’s common for women in lower positions than men to avoid spending too much time with these men because they fear it may look inappropriate. It’s more common for men to mentor other men, leaving out women. Establish formal sponsorship or mentorship programs and encourage everyone to interact. Personal relationships like this can lead to professional relationships that can help women drive their careers forward.