It’s the age-old debate: what do women really want?
Or it was the debate, rather. Women aren’t exactly shy these days about voicing what it is they want, at home, in politics, and perhaps most especially in the workplace. But then, shyness was never really the issue — being heard was, and heard free from the potential for bias or stigma. Despite progress that’s been made in this arena, especially in the months following #MeToo, the possibility of being stigmatized for voicing one’s wants and experiences still too-often persists for one group in particular: female jobseekers. Take it from Georgene Huang.
Today the CEO of women’s career site Fairygodboss, Huang has seen firsthand the way stigmas work to keep women silent, especially within their careers. In her case, Huang was two months pregnant and working as an exec at Dow Jones when something wholly unexpected happened: she was fired. This left her in the awkward position of looking for a new job while early in her pregnancy, making the interviewing process a complicated one. There were certain questions she wanted to ask potential employers — like, how long is maternity leave? Is work-life balance a reality here? Are women promoted fairly? — but felt she couldn’t, for fear of being stigmatized.
So, Huang did what any enterprising millennial would do — she turned to the Internet for help, and began crowdsourcing anonymous information from other women about what life was like at their workplace. The Fairygodboss platform was thus born — and today, it’s been used by millions of women to give and get the inside scoop on what female jobseekers really, really want.
A few takeaways from the Fairygodboss journey? Flashy employee perks, like in-office kegs and Jeans Day, are all well and good. But to truly impress women, Fairygodboss users report that companies must offer a few key things.
1. Equal Pay
Simone de Beauvoir may have nailed it in “The Second Sex” — there is no women’s empowerment without women’s economic empowerment.
That famed treatise was published nearly seven decades ago, and yet, women still struggle to be financially valued at the same rate as men. The gender pay gap persists, with white women bringing in 85 cents, Black women 63 cents, and Latina women just 54 cents to the white man’s dollar in 2017, and we see equally stark pay disparities within the glittering gates of Hollywood. If the gap is ever truly going to be closed, greater corporate transparency and equality-ensuring measures are essential. Some companies, like Squarespace, have begun answering that call by publishing employees’ salary information, and others, like Amazon, have outlawed asking for candidates’ salary history in interviews.
If your employer is behind the times on promoting pay equality, it’s worth checking out Fairygodboss’ salary database, crowdsourced from users. If you determine you aren’t being paid at a rate that’s comparable to your male peers, there are some steps you can take, like talking to your boss — or finding a new job at a company that’s known for actually treating women fairly. Fairygodboss’ jobs board is full of openings at companies women love.
Your reputation as an inclusive, women-friendly employer won’t go far these days without offering the highly sought-after benefit of flexibility. For women, flexibility has been proven to correlate to higher levels of ambition — one 2013 survey from Catalyst found that having access to flexible work arrangements led to a 31% increase in women’s likeliness to aspire to senior executive- or CEO-level positions. And flexibility helps employers, too — other studies have shown that flexible workers are happier, more productive, and less likely to burn out, leading to lower turnover rates.
Flexibility can be incorporated to varying degrees — at some workplaces, employees can take advantage of fully built-out “flex time” policies, while at others, it simply means not having to sweat taking the afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment. To get the specifics on which employers offer flexible perks like part-time and telecommuting positions, check out Fairygodboss’ Work-Life Balance & Flexibility Guide.
3. Paid Parental Leave — for Both Parents
More than 75% of expecting moms report being excited to return to work — and yet, 43% end up leaving their jobs, according to research discussed in a recent webinar with Fairygodboss and Maven Clinic.
The factors behind this alarming statistic are manifold, but one thing is clear: companies must do a better job of supporting employees, of all genders, in their desire to start a family. And the most obvious place to start is by incorporating better, longer, and paid parental leave policies — something the United States as a whole is frightfully behind on. In fact, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis, the U.S. is the only developed country in the world to not offer mandatory paid parental leave. Only 12% of U.S. workers have access to paid leave, and for those who do have access to it, the amount offered is often insufficient to the point of forcing women back to work before they or their child are ready.
A growing number of companies are taking it into their own hands to do right by mothers, though, like Deloitte, which recently expanded its leave policy to include 16 fully paid weeks for men and women to care for relatives. One Deloitte employee and Fairygodboss user applauded the company for its “excellent maternity leave,” writing in her review that “when returning (to work), you aren’t penalized,” while another said the firm is good at “providing new moms with the flexibility to dial down and spend more time with your kids as needed.”
Beyond reading user reviews of company policies, you can also easily compare parental leave perks through Fairygodboss’ maternity leave database.
Most of us have had at some point worked for an employer where taking the day off for an illness was not looked kindly upon. #ProTip for companies hoping to attract and retain women — don’t be that employer.
Offering paid sick leave (something else the U.S. is behind on compared to other developed countries) shows that employees’ wellness is a true priority at a company. And while there may be punchier ways of imparting the same message — like, say, on-site yoga classes — the cornerstone of promoting employees’ health is giving them the knowledge they won’t be financially punished if they or a child get sick. Paid sick leave is also something that stands out favorably to female jobseekers, in particular, many of whom still make up the bulk of America’s primary caretakers. As Fairygodboss users have testified to time and again, a company where women feel that not only they, but their family is supported is a company women are likely to stay at.
5. Professional Development Opportunities
What does impress female jobseekers much? The knowledge that their gender isn’t seen as a barrier to getting promoted at a company.
“Professional development” may feel like a buzzword nowadays, but its impact is anything but ephemeral. Women need mentors, and they need to be shown examples of career paths where women like them have seen success in advancing. Companies can make this a reality by offering female employees designated mentors and sponsorship initiatives, like IBM has done through its Pathways Program, a multi-faceted initiative that pairs mid-career technical women with career development resources like executive coaches, sponsors, workshops and learning labs.
It’s this kind of emphasis on female talent advancement that no doubt leads women at IBM to leave such glowing reviews on Fairygodboss; one user wrote that at IBM, she had “the opportunity to reinvent myself over and over again with the endless support and encouragement,” while another noted that the tech giant “encourages skills development & growth opportunities across the organization, and for employees to design their career path.”
6. A Manager Who’s a Human Being
Okay, okay — this one isn’t a “benefit” in the technical sense, but having a humane and understanding manager is super important, as women in the Fairygodboss community can attest to. When researching the ways women jobseekers differ from men, Fairygodboss found that finding a good manager means more to women than finding good compensation when looking for their next job opportunity. In fact, a good manager was actually ranked the No. 1 element women jobseekers are most interested in, followed by flexibility and work-life balance.
Having a quality boss who supports you in your career goals, as well as your need to at times prioritize life matters, can make all the difference in women’s job satisfaction — as can having a toxic boss. Which type of manager does your company tend to employ? By leaving a review of your employer on Fairygodboss, you can help other women make informed decisions about the workplace matters that will impact them most. Because when transparency exists, that’s when women — not stigmas — will prevail.