International Women’s Day is a great day to celebrate the accomplishments of women. It’s also a great day to look at how far we still have to work towards gender equality.
At the current rate it will take 100 years to close the gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum.
Globally the wage gap between women and men is around 57%. In some cases that’s due to women getting paid less than men for the same job.
However, it’s not always that simple. The World Economic Forum’s report found that women are more likely to work in lower paid industries than men. Men still dominate highly-paid fields such as finance and technology.
Women are also more likely to work part-time in order to look after children or other family members.
Only 22% of managerial positions worldwide are currently occupied by women. That’s often because the system, as it stands, penalises women who take a career break to have children.
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Thankfully, many companies have policies in place to combat these trends. These programmes encourage and empower women to achieve in various different ways.
There are sponsorship options, better rules around maternity leave, and grants given to highly achieving women.
Here are a few of ways that companies around the world are empowering their female workforce.
European broadcaster Sky has all sorts of initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in its workforce.
In terms of women’s initiatives at Sky, there are two really noteworthy projects from the company. Firstly, there’s the Women In Technology Scholars grant where Sky will donate £25,000 to three women who present unique ideas on how technology can be used in the media and entertainment space. The idea is for the grant money to bring the project to life.
Secondly, and more importantly, there’s the Women in Leadership programme. This is a tailored programmes that provides female leaders with a sponsor who advocates for them around the business, and helps them to identify opportunities for further development.
Among other initiatives, one of the most important things that consultancy firm Accenture does is publish its workforce demographics and hiring reports. This transparency allows anyone to view how the company is doing in terms of gender equalities.
Metrics that Accenture measures include percentage of new female hires, percentage of female global workforce, and percentage of female newly promoted managing directors.
It also empowers women with in-demand skillsets with specific sponsorship programmes and fast-track the careers of the highest performing women.
Setting itself the challenging task of being the world’s best employer for women by 2025, Vodafone has many projects aimed at increasing the gender diversity of its workforce.
One of the most significant is its ReConnect project. This is a talent programme aimed to encourage women who’ve taken career breaks to come back to work. It helps those women make professional connections and find opportunities. The programme operates in 26 countries and hopes to bring 1,000 women back into the workforce in three years.
There’s also Vodafone’s global maternity leave policy. This policy ensures that employees get a minimum of 16-weeks maternity leave (even in countries without statutory maternity leave) at full pay.
Women coming back to work after maternity leave also have the option of working a four-day week but being paid for five days work for the first six months of coming back to work.
US-based payroll, HR, and taxes services also pledge to increase diversity in its workforce. Every year the company hosts an Executive Women in Leadership conference.
This forum allows senior level management to exchange insight and ideas with their peers. There are also talks and encouragement from a variety of guest speakers.
More broadly, ADP also offers on-site daycares to all its staff. It also allows all staff a flexible working environment where they can often work from home.
These two services are particularly helpful for women coming back to work after maternity.
Fellow HR provider Ceridian was recently named the Best Place To Work For Women by an independent Canadian research body.
The company has done plenty of things for its female staff, but most noteworthy is founding #GoSponsorHer a grassroots mentorship movement aimed at increasing the advancement and participation of women in business.
They also run a Ladies Learning To Code seminar to help give female staff more tech skills, and sponsor an internal Women’s Network to connect female employees from across the business to engage with and learn from one another.
Unlike many of the other companies on this list, General Electric has a longstanding commitment to gender diversity in its workforce. It’s own women’s network is two decades old. The group has supported various initiatives to bring more women into the workplace.
For example, over the past ten years, the Women’s Network has donated $1 million to the Society of Women Engineers to support female engineers. It offers 43 scholarships per year of $5,000 each to encourage young women to obtain engineering qualifications.
It also focuses on encouraging girls in STEM fields even further; hosting STEM camps for girls at 13 General Electric locations across America every year since 2011.
As one of the world’s most successful yet reasonably juvenile companies, it’s no surprise that Google goes the extra mile to ensure it has a diverse workforce.
The company claims that both men and women are promoted at the same rate within Google, however, the company also found that, in general, women took longer to put themselves forward for opportunities.
As a result, Google has policies to encourage female staff to put themselves forward for promotion.
Like with all the other companies on this list, Google also has a many active employee group’s aimed at empowering women. These include Google Women in Engineering and Women@Google.
In addition, Google offers a minimum of 18 weeks paid maternity leave.
Johnson & Johnson
International pharmaceutical company has a truly incredible record when it comes to empowering women. At the company’s formation in 1886, the majority of the employees were female. As a result, the company has empowering women built into its ethos.
Like other companies on this list, Johnson & Johnson has mentorship programmes, paid parental leave, and pledges to increase the number of female executives.
However, more broadly, Johnson & Johnson takes female empowerment beyond the confines of their own workforce.
They sponsor plenty of campaigns aimed at helping women in countries around the world. These include healthcare campaigns, but also, a campaign called Know Your Value.
Know Your Value is a touring campaign that teaches women to rediscover their sense of self-worth. In doing so, it encourages them to step forward and achieve more in their careers and personal lives.
Well-known scrapping booking website Pinterest has various plans in place to empower female employees. The company makes all employees to take part in diversity training to make themselves aware of unconscious bias in the workplace.
It also has a so-called Rooney Rule when interviewing for senior management positions. This means that for every open senior management position, the company must interview at least one woman and one candidate from an underrepresented background.
The challenges ahead:
Despite all the work the aforementioned employers and others like them are doing, there are still plenty of challenges. A report from PwC surveyed 3,600 female professionals worldwide to get a sense of how women feel about the challenges they face in the workplace.
One of the most interesting findings is that 44% of women felt nervous about the impact of having a family on their careers. And despite maternity leave being offered 48% of new mothers felt overlooked for promotions and special projects upon their return to work.
Even the offer of flexible working arrangements post-maternity isn’t always as helpful as it could be. Over a third of women believe that taking advantage of such arrangements has negative career consequences.
Less than half of the women surveyed believe their company is doing enough to combat gender inequality. 31% of women say they believe their gender, sexuality, or ethnic background could curb their career progress.
In addition, there’s the issue of self-confidence. Traditionally women have not been seen as the greatest self-promoters at work.
Still, of the 27% of women who’d had a promotion in the past two years, 63% had negotiated for it.
Clearly, when women do speak up, they get noticed and rewarded. Perhaps companies should look to help women build their own sense of self-worth to empower their female workforce.