Underrepresentation of women in the workforce is nothing out of the ordinary. Even big tech companies like Google have been guilty of this lack of diversity with only 30% of employees recorded as female in 2016. Of course, there are explanations for these low numbers. Caring for your children, social stigma, and even the gender pay gap are just a couple reasons why women may opt out of working compared to men. But it’s about time we close this gender gap in the workforce. Aside from the importance of equal opportunity, having more female employees yields high benefits for companies as well.
To put it simply, diversity allows for the merging of different perspectives and backgrounds, leading to more innovative outcomes, improvements in problem solving, and ultimately benefiting business strategies. So, it’s safe to say that women are a valuable asset to companies. And although hiring more female employees is still very much a work in progress, there are a few companies who are starting to realise this. All the way over in Silicon Valley, Apple and Facebook are offering attractive benefit packages to women by giving them the opportunity to freeze their eggs with all the costs covered. This would allow women the option to wait until they are ready to have children by surgically preserving their healthy eggs. But this is no minor cost. In fact, it can reach up to $20,000 for a company to carry this program out per recipient.
This is a huge, and commendable, step in attracting women to the work force. The fact is, however, that many startups cannot afford the same benefits. The question remains — what can startups do to attract female employees without breaking bank?
Anyone who works knows the difficulties that come with balancing a work schedule with personal responsibilities. Have to pick up a family member from the airport? Need to go to a dentist appointment? Not so easy if you work all day. With the added social pressure on mothers in particular to be robot-efficient in being a mother and working, a heavy work schedule is the bane of their existence. An easy solution? Flexible schedules. This gives women more freedom to plan their families into the picture. In turn, this could even shine light on the misconceptions on productivity in the workplace. Different studies have shown that productivity and efficiency increases with self-given hours in comparison to a strict 9-5 schedule. It would be based more on performance and less on having to show face by just sitting at your desk all day.
MATERNITY AND PATERNITY LEAVE
Offering maternity leave is already one major incentive to attract top female talent. In the past, women have faced employment discrimination as companies are not as inclined to invest in someone who might leave for several months. This has left women more eager to join corporations which offer maternity leave, thus eradicating the risks of being fired from their job if they do decide to have children.
But even though maternity leave helps more women, paternity leave is just as important. In fact, research conducted in Sweden showed that fathers getting time off as well results in an increase in salaries for the mothers. This is one massive step for closing the gender pay gap. But paternity leave would also benefit the family as a whole. It gives a chance for both parents to spend time with the infant. They would be working as a team, thereby removing the social convention that caring for a child is only the woman’s responsibility. Moreover, rather than all the breadwinning expectations being shifted to the father for months, parents can instead work their schedules around each other. This allows equal time spent with the child, and an equal distribution of family caregiving.
WOMEN IN LEADING POSITIONS
Flexible schedules and paternity leave are an admirable move in proving a company’s efforts for gender equality, but they don’t necessarily imply a perfect work environment. A workplace that is male-dominated is a sure-fire way to decrease morale and thereby productivity and efficiency in female employees. If a career driven woman is looking to get ahead, and all she sees is a glass ceiling blocking her way, chances are she will not waste her talent or potential on a company that won’t appreciate it. They need to see a possibility that there is an end-goal for them in the company – a position that is not a lower or mid-level. Women need to know that leadership positions can be part of their future too.
Now, if you’re a company and thinking how can I show women that they can too rise up in the workplace, start by displaying a non-discrimination notice for applicants on your website. It lets your future, and current, employees know that they have a policy that focuses on equal opportunity. And while this would benefit women, it will also let anyone know that they can succeed regardless of their race, age, or religion.
About the author
Sophie van Wersch recently graduated with honors from the University College of Maastricht with a B.A., and majored in International Politics and Sociology. During her time at university she concentrated on the ways in which technology played a part in political events, and society as a whole. Since graduating, she has taken time off to prioritise her online courses in both computer science, and social media management. Although having majored in more of a political study, she intends to build a career in the video game industry – specifically, project management and/or the social media management of video games.