Hiring moms is good for business. Research from WerkLabs, the research division of The Mom Project, shows that employees with moms as managers and CEOs report more job satisfaction, increased team collaboration and a greater likelihood to stay at their company.
While the number of women in senior leadership positions has grown in the last 5 years, women are still underrepresented at every level of corporate America. For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager positions, only 72 women receive the same position.
Despite the incredible strides women have made in the workplace, there’s still work to do. Whether you’re a manager or coworker, a male, female or non-binary, you have an important role in supporting and empowering women in the workplace.
Here’s what you can do as an ally for working women.
1. Give women a seat at the table —literally
In a recent study, Deloitte found that in a board meeting of 100 people, only 15 would be women. This means in daily meetings with 10 or fewer participants, less than 2 of these people will be women. Identify times when you can bring more women into scheduled meetings, especially when their skill sets complement the task at hand.
2. Encourage women to speak up
Simply bringing women to the table isn’t enough. Women are routinely overlooked in meetings. Once you bring them in, create a space for women to share their thoughts during meetings. If none volunteer, ask a specific question directly to one of the women present.
Today’s virtual work environment is especially challenging for moms who are juggling childcare and video calls simultaneously. 45% of women business leaders say it’s hard for women to speak up during video calls. And speaking over women is even more pronounced during virtual meetings where video technology sometimes makes it difficult to read non-verbal cues that it’s appropriate to jump in.
Vice President Kamala Harris famously stood up for herself and her voice when Mike Pence interrupted her during a 2020 Vice Presidential debate by saying, “I’m speaking.” Unfortunately, many women may not react as quickly, or at all. Be aware of when women are being interrupted in conversations, and become their ally by reopening space for them to speak. You can say, “I don’t think you were finished, what was it you were sharing previously?”
3. Set clear expectations and provide feedback
Feedback is an important tool that can help women feel more confident in the workplace. By pointing out what’s working well and what can be done differently, you can help women in the workplace improve their skills.
The constant competitive drive that’s required to push through the glass ceiling can create negative workplace relationships between women, too. When you begin supporting other women in the workplace through positive feedback, you change this overall narrative that there’s only room for one woman to succeed.
4. Provide mentorship to other women
The Harvard Business Review reports that women who have an inner circle of close female contacts are more likely to land executive positions with greater authority and higher pay.
Engaging in conversations with a mentor can help women feel more comfortable expressing their career goals. This will make it easier for them to advocate for a promotion and speak up in meetings.
5. Back less experienced women for new opportunities
if you're a senior professional at your organization, you have an obligation to develop more junior employees. It’s critical that you focus on providing women with opportunities to gain additional experience. Use your position for good by advocating for less experienced women to be included in new projects and joint teams.
When appropriate, share your endorsement of these women as they seek a raise or promotion. Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the board outperform other companies. Your guidance early in a woman’s career can begin opening doors that will eventually lead to the board room.
6. Make introductions
In a job search, it’s often not about who you know but about who you know, knows. Second-degree connections often prove more valuable during a job search. Think about your own professional network and what introductions you might be able to make.
7. Set goals around female involvement
As you set annual goals and success metrics, don’t forget to factor in female involvement. Establish standards for how many women should be involved in cross-departmental teams, for example. Or, set a goal for greater equity in how bonuses and raises are handed out across the company to ensure women are receiving equal recognition.
8. Protect the flex factors that are important to working moms
88% of working women consider flexibility to be the most important factor in job satisfaction, greater even than salary. As an ally in the workplace, you can support women by advocating for flex factors like flexible schedules and remote and hybrid work arrangements.
In addition to flexibility, you can advocate for family-friendly benefits like parental leave policies, health benefits, child care stipends and tuition reimbursement programs. In addition to creating these programs for working moms, you can also coach women through making the most of these flex factors. Remind employees with flexible schedules of the importance of communicating their availability and setting a consistent schedule.
Men are 4x more likely to ask for a raise. As a result, the pay gap persists and women make just 70¢ on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. This gap is even greater for moms of color who make on average as little as 45¢ on the dollar compared to men.
As a manager, you can help close the pay gap by ensuring raises and salaries are equitably determined. If adjustments need to be made to level the playing field, raise the issue to HR and propose a plan to standardize the pay structure, regardless of gender.
It’s also important to promote pay transparency. This practice of openly discussing salaries can hold companies accountable to reward employees on merit alone.
10. Be approachable
Often, women thrive when they have a few trusted relationships in the workplace. Be approachable and position yourself as this person for the women on your team. Build trust by being supportive and openly advocating for more opportunities for women to shine within the company. Invest yourself in the woman’s career path, not just her current job.
Have an open door policy and regularly solicit feedback from the team about what’s working and what’s not. When you do receive this feedback, pay special attention to what the working moms are saying. Working moms are an incredible asset to your team when they feel supported and empowered to pursue true work-life integration.
Empowered women created powerful workplaces
The way we work has changed dramatically. As a result of the pandemic, record numbers of women left the workforce to care for their families and manage their children’s education from home. As these women begin to re-enter the workforce, flexibility will be more important than ever. Your support of working moms creates a more collaborative and more successful work environment across the board.