The time for gender equality in the workplace is now
Throughout the past 100 years, there has been an incredible advancement of women in our society. Women now have opportunities that were unimaginable a century ago. But, despite the progress, pay equality still lags behind the intent of this pioneering work over the last century.
The Equal Pay Act granted the same pay for the same work, yet women still make $0.82 for every $1 her male counterpart makes. In addition, women only hold 20 percent of the top corporate board seats in the US, and only 33 Fortune 500 companies have women at the helm.
While 2020 got off to a momentous start, the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women more than men. At the beginning of the lockdown, women dropped from the workforce at a higher rate and now as we reopen, they are being re-employed at a slower rate. Women accounted for 55 percent of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they accounted for only 45 percent of the 2.5 million people who came back to work in May.
There has been an ongoing equality issue for women in the workplace and while congressional legislation, hallmark court cases, and public pressure have moved the needle, we need more business leaders to proactively address this issue in their own company. This isn’t just a good idea, it’s good for business. According to McKinsey & Company, businesses see increased productivity, profitability, and stock prices when they advance qualified women in the workplace.
This year at Walker Edison, we conducted a company-wide survey to assess our own equality gaps. In response to that survey, we launched our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which included the Walker Edison Women in Leadership Initiative (WEWL). Our goal is to increase the proportion of women in our top senior executive positions from 29 percent at present to 40 percent by 2021. And this is just the beginning.
Throughout this process, we recognize that creating equality in the workplace requires a shift in company culture. This is possible through thoughtful leadership, accountability and awareness, clear targets and measurement, programs to recruit, retain and develop female talent, internal and external communications, and engagement, and our diversity and Inclusion roadmap. These are all critical pieces of our overall approach to delivering what women have been legally promised for decades.
While creating our roadmap for the future of Walker Edison, we learned some important actions that any company can take right now. Here are five ways to advance women in your business, and you can start right now:
Facilitate more trainings
Education unlocks opportunity and advancement. Offer training on unconscious biases, team building, professional development, and other key skill sets you want to be enhanced in your company. In addition to adding more trainings, Walker Edison will host its first-ever virtual Women in Leadership summit that will be available to all employees. It will include exploring issues around inclusive leadership, gender, and unconscious bias, as well as women’s empowerment across the value chain.
Invite more voices to the table in important discussions
Supporting all managers to foster an inclusive workplace is crucial. Once they have that support, they can start within their departments making sure every voice is being heard. This is also where listening to feedback and survey results also play a part.
Create mentorship and learning opportunities
Enhancing mentoring and sponsorship programs will help prepare high-potential women for senior executive positions. In addition, these programs will provide support and continued learning for all women and employees within your organization and will help them grow. That growth will ultimately contribute to your overall success.
Provide specific career pathing and growth for women at your organization
Hiring and promoting more women in senior executive positions is important. Providing clear career pathing helps all employees, and making sure women feel included in the process is essential. Something we have also found that will help in this effort is encouraging the use of Walker Edison’s paid parental leave program and flexible work policies in all Walker Edison’s operating companies. Genuinely caring about your employees and their future makes a big difference and inspires many to stay and grow within your organization.
Share what you are doing with your employees
Transparency is vital to success. We have committed to reporting progress in Walker Edison’s annual Diversity & Inclusion progress report. We will be reviewing results with senior leaders to promote gender balance and ensure progress.
As leaders in the state of Utah, we are committed to ensuring women’s equality within our organization, the state of Utah, and nationally. We were reminded of the importance of our continued work with the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 19, 2020. She worked her entire career to ensure that all women have equal access to employment and equal pay free from gender discrimination.
At Walker Edison, we are driven to be among the best in the nation for women’s equality in the workplace and will continue to deliver on our initiatives that provide opportunity, development, and education to support women to reach the highest levels in their careers. Let’s make this the decade for women and finally accomplish the intentions of the last 100 years.