Achieving gender equality in the workplace is no simple feat. Individuals and companies are making notable strides each day, whether by speaking up for themselves or their colleagues or by instituting policies to better the workplace for women. Here at Fairygodboss, we are committed to improving women’s work experiences, and much of the effort to realize that goal involves helping employers understand their female employees’ struggles, needs and desires.
When we talk about women’s issues in the workplace, we often hear about CEOs and managers -- those who may be known as the face of a company -- and the role that they play in creating a company culture, which may or may not be particularly friendly to women. Indeed, these individuals tend to hold an extraordinary amount of power and influence, and how they use (or abuse) it is largely in their control.
We hear less frequently about HR and talent departments, which can also play a big role in influencing workplace culture to benefit women. If leveraged effectively, these departments have the potential to contribute significantly to the goal of leveling the playing field for men and women in the workplace. HR staff members often serve as prospective employees’ first point of contact within a given office, and how they manage those interactions may factor significantly into candidates’ visions of the company and job. HR employees may also be in a position to execute a commitment to diversity in hiring and training programs and to oversee policies and benefits that can go a long way in retaining female employees. Of course, this depends in part on companies’ specific policies and how leadership directs their HR staff. But organizations should be aiming to capitalize on the function of HR, which in turn will improve their employee retention rates. The 3% Conference, whose mission is to increase the number of women in creative leadership positions, recently organized a forum that tackled some of these issues. Brooklyn-based writer Chelsea Spratling reported on the event’s panel discussions, which explored the role that talent and HR Departments play in the advertising industry. According to Spratling, panelists emphasized the fact that advertising is losing talent (mostly women and people of color) at alarming rates. Speakers noted the importance of clarity in the hiring process (and specifically pointed to the “vague feedback holding women back”), the need for transparency in advertising, the fact that fewer employees quit when paid leave is an option for both parents, and the need for the advertising agency to stop discouraging men from feeling comfortable taking paternity leave.
The discussions were inspired by the 3% Conference’s manifesto, which reads, “Diversity = Creativity = Profitability. The more varied the people who come up with ideas, the more varied the ideas will be. And since women control the majority of consumer spending and social sharing, it only makes sense to involve them in the creative process. Yet, until we came along, only 3% of Creative Directors were women.”
Since its inception, the 3% Conference has been working toward changing that statistic by curating live events and mentorship programs (and sharing content from their conferences through videos and their blog), as well as publishing research on women’s progress in creative roles. Their goal is simple: “to put ourselves out of business” -- and they are wise to focus on the importance of HR departments in achieving that goal.