If you’re reading this, you’re probably on board with Fairygodboss’ mission to promote gender equality in the workplace. Most of your friends and colleagues probably are, too. But it’s difficult to figure out how to get there. More and more companies are embracing gender diversity, setting ambitious targets and improving their parental leave policies. But if we leave it entirely up to companies, we won’t reach true equality as quickly as we’d like.
That’s why our co-founder, Romy Newman, has put together a list of 9 practices that we, as individuals, can employ to enhance workplace equality. This past Tuesday, during a webinar hosted by Professional BusinessWomen of California (moderated by Michele Zumstein of Oracle), Romy outlined these practices:
1. Help sell the story. While a lot of leaders at companies will likely say they believe gender diversity is the right move, they’re not prioritizing it because they don’t necessarily see how it contributors to their chief goal of maximizing their company’s performance.
Yet research from Morgan Stanley shows that better diversity leads to better stock performance.
As Romy put it, “More women means better corporate performance,” which is something every company can get behind. Arm yourself with facts (they’re out there!) to make this case to leaders at your company.
2. Stop apologizing. Women, by nature, apologize too much. They also tend to experience more shame than men do.
Romy admitted that she herself is guilty of this phenomenon. When she worked at The Wall Street Journal, the company allowed her to go down to a 3-day-a-week work schedule when she had kids while keeping her title. “It was really progressive of them,” she said. “But instead of thriving, I felt ashamed that I wasn’t at work every day. It consumed me, and the reality was I was doing a good job, and the company wanted me there, but I couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity because I was letting shame bog me down.”
Romy encouraged all listeners to pursue their own career trajectory, citing Lisen Stromberg’s new book “Work Pause Thrive,” from which she read an excerpt: “We used to think women who opted out were failures. Now we know them for what they are – inspiring career innovators.”
3. Ask for a raise. Then ask again. If you suspect you deserve a raise, assert yourself. Among other examples, Romy pointed to the case of Leyla Seka and Cindy Robbins, two employees at Salesforce, who suspected inequality in corporate compensation practices. They took it upon themselves to raise this issue to the top levels at their company and asked for a company-wide compensation audit, or in effect, asked for a raise on behalf of all the women at Salesforce.
Their CEO, Marc Beinoff, listened and wholeheartedly supported the initiative. Salesforce did an audit, found instances of inequality both for men and women, and corrected them. “What’s incredible,” Romy explained, “is that the headlines that next week didn’t read, ‘Salesforce pays women less than men.’ The headlines were about how Salesforce wasn’t afraid to put its reputation on the line to help promote gender equality. It’s a case study that hopefully will make improvements for women everywhere.”
4. Brag. And be visible. “You should let everyone know what you do that is awesome,” Romy said. “Because if you don’t, no one will.”
McKinsey’s Joanna Barsh has said that “women are promoted based on performance; men are promoted based on potential.” In other words, for women to get promoted, they have to actually be doing the job they hope to get promoted into.
This isn’t going to change overnight, but we can start to change patterns by bragging and being visible. Romy explained how this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Once we get women promoted into more senior roles, we’ll have more women evaluating women and promoting them.
5. Advocate for more flexibility – and then take it, unabashedly. Fairygodboss’ research shows that flexibility is among employees’ top priorities – and it’s the way of the future.
Romy can attest: “I can’t tell you how many phone calls I do right now when people say, ‘you’re going to hear my dog barking in the background,’” she said. She pointed to GE as a company that’s leading the way in promoting flexibility by encouraging flexible working arrangements and offering unlimited time off. GE employees control their schedule, and their job is to get their job done and deliver results.
“In addition to being highly productive and having highly engaged workforce,” Romy said, “people feel good when they’re treated like adults. It’s really paid off for GE.”
6. Advocate for paid parental leave – for men and women - and take it. The reviews submitted to Fairygodboss prove that there is a relationship between amount of leave a woman takes and satisfaction with her job.
Companies are catching on, and many have recently improved (or are in the process of enhancing) their paid leave policies. This is so important, especially because the U.S. is the only developed country in world where there’s no federally mandated parental leave policy.
Still, right now, only 12% of private sector workers have access to paid leave through their employer – and everyone else is figuring out how to pay for the time they have to take off when they have a baby.
Romy offered examples of companies that enhanced their leave policies after individual women – not those in an HR function – came together and advocated for better benefits. She added that taking leave and setting an example that it’s OK to do so is just as important!
7. Find your sponsors. “Women spend more time doing and less time networking,” Romy said, quoting Carol Bartz, the former CEO of Yahoo, but we should always be thinking about how to direct our career. She suggested making a list of three internal sponsors within your company and three external sponsors who are helping you to advance your career.
8. Mentor and support women.
Romy referred to a Fairygodboss poll that found that women believe it’s very hard to find sponsors and mentors at work. She said she saw this firsthand when she worked at The Wall Street Journal and was the only woman at the VP level. The majority of those worked below Romy were much more equally split – so there were so many entry- and mid-level employees looking for advice from a woman senior to them.
“What I ended up doing was setting office hours to make time for women to be able to come see me and talk to me,” Romy recalled. “I carved time out of my calendar as if it were part of my day-to-day responsibilities.”
9. Support transparency. When women are willing to share information with each other, we make each other more prepared and more powerful. That was one of the reasons Romy co-founded Fairygodboss together with her friend and former colleague, Georgene Huang. The Fairygodboss mission is to improve the workplace for women by creating transparency. Your contribution to Fairygodboss will help advance gender equality much more quickly -- so leave a review on Fairygodboss today -- and don’t forget to share Fairygodboss with your friends!
Interested to learn more? The full presentation can be found here.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.