For many women, the experience of work is fraught with barriers, challenges and time poverty. Women struggle with finding work, stalled careers, lack of support and unequal pay.
Of course, equal access to opportunities for women is of crucial importance to them, but also to society as a whole. Creating the conditions for women to succeed and thrive is both a social and a moral issue. Moreover, as women make up about half of the world’s working-age population, their well-being, health and economic performance also impact the global economy.
But the climb appears to be uphill for women — according to a host of new data. But there are meaningful actions individuals, teams, leaders and organizations can take to create the conditions for women to succeed and thrive.
Definitions of Success
Importantly, women need to define success for themselves and there are multiple correct answers to how a woman navigates life, work, family and all things fulfilling. Research has shown that there is no one best work and life model for women, for example working full time, working part time or not working outside the home. Instead, it’s ideal when women do what they prefer.
Women and families tend to achieve the greatest satisfaction and satisfaction with alignment – for example, a woman prefers and does work full time. Either a woman wants to devote herself full-time to raising children and she does, or she works part-time and it suits her perfectly. These are the most ideal circumstances – which is why supporting women should start with what each woman discovers is best for herself and her family – rather than an external standard of achievement.
It is also important to recognize the ebb and flow of needs in life stages. What a woman prioritizes in her 20s will be different than when she’s in her 40s or 60s. And needs also shift between the seasons. If a woman has children, the way she spends her time or manages her various responsibilities will change based on when school is open and whether the nursery is open, or it will change based on the ages or stages of her children.
Creating the conditions for women to thrive
There are several pragmatic routes to supporting women and cultivating a landscape where women can succeed.
#1 – Hiring, promoting and nurturing career growth for women
Women are not given the same opportunities for recruitment or promotion. In fact, according to an Applied study, 18% of women were asked if they have children or are planning to have children during the hiring process. And a poll by HiBob found that 22% of women and 35% of men believed that women were promoted less often than men. In addition, 15% of women and 23% of men believed that women receive fewer career benefits than men.
Recruitment, selection, hiring, promotion and career growth practices should provide equal opportunities for women, and these should be systematic in a culture – not left to chance. Sponsorship and mentorship are also important aspects of a system that supports women – both women who support women and men who also support women.
#2 – Value career paths and skills of women
The majority of women have children and the majority of working women have children. The percentage of women participating in the workforce has fallen due to the pandemic, but the bulk of working women are working mothers.
This reality can translate into gaps in women’s resumes and work history as they have stepped back from career growth to focus on family. It can also arise from women taking time off to care for children. Applied’s data said 38% of women who took a career break of six months or more because of the need to care for children. This was compared to only 11% of men with a similar career gap. In addition, 53% of people with open positions believed there was a stigma attached to the gaps, and they preferred not to tell potential employers.
However, family care can be an important source of personal reward as well as skill development, encouraging talents that can be transferred to work. A whopping 53% of women in the Applied survey believed they had acquired new or relevant skills for work, based on their time in care.
A brilliant survey by (In)Credible showed that women do indeed build valuable skills in the care process. These included empathy (70% reported), stress tolerance (63%), time management (54%), communication skills (63%), advocacy (47%), conflict management (42%), motivating others (30%), and leadership (20 %).
Organizations can embrace women’s contributions regardless of a resume gap and especially in light of the skills they develop in healthcare.
#3 – Provide meaningful work
Many parents are willing to make sacrifices for their children in their jobs, so providing meaningful work is a particularly powerful way to support mothers.
In a recent poll by KinderCare and The Harris Poll, people are willing to make tough choices in support of their children and family experience. Specifically, they are willing to change jobs (74%), take on a less demanding role (73%), scale back at work (70%), move to a new city or location (65%) , pursue a freelance job (64%), take a job that pays less with more flexibility (62%), take a career break (62%), stay in a job they are dissatisfied with (59%), or put off a promotion (55%).
Parents are willing to sacrifice the satisfaction and satisfaction they get from their work, but it’s better if they don’t have to. Substantial support for mothers – would provide meaningful work that matches people’s current skills and their future contribution. Good work would include clear expectations and purpose, empathetic leadership, and respectful cultures. Positive work also includes opportunities to learn and grow. All this would reduce the need for sacrifice and contribute to better parenting and job contributions.
#4 – Provide childcare allowance and flexibility
Organizations can also support women by providing benefits that meet childcare needs. When people were asked to consider what benefits would influence them to stay with their current employer, 46% of people placed childcare benefits in the top three and 69% placed them in the top five benefits, according to KinderCare/Harris data poll.
Unfortunately, 61% believed there is a gap between employers and childcare and 50% said putting together adequate childcare coverage was a major source of stress. Organizations can provide a variety of services to meet needs, from pre-tax benefits and on-demand childcare or emergency/supportive childcare to employer-sponsored, on-site or subsidized childcare.
Another way to support parents, including mothers, is for organizations to provide flexibility in working hours and locations where possible. The KinderCare/Harris poll found that 68% of respondents could be more involved in their children’s lives if their work schedules were more flexible. And 67% agreed that spending more time with their children boosts their confidence as a parent. For 60%, consistent access to quality childcare would enable them to be more present for their children.
When people are happier at work, they experience more pleasure outside of work. But the opposite is also true: when people are happier outside of work, they experience more job satisfaction and are able to exert more energy, focus and discretionary effort. Providing benefits and flexibility is good for mothers, but also for organizations.
#5 – Pay women equally and fairly
There is still a gender pay gap and women’s income growth has slowed over the past two decades, according to data from the Pew Research Center. In the HiBob data, only 58% of professionals believed that women and men were paid equally for the same position within their company.
In addition, women worry about finances. In a survey by Fidelity, 53% had cut back on non-essential spending and entertainment in the past year. Women were stressed primarily by inflation (71%), cost of essentials (65%), and not saving enough for emergencies (58%). The most stressed were Gen Z women – about the cost of education (55%), paying off student loans (44%) and a lack of knowledge about how to invest effectively (46%).
Organizations can help by training employees. In fact, according to the Fidelity data, women are interested in learning how to manage debt and credit (27%), how to stick to a budget (25%) and how to save (24%).
But in general, women should be paid equally for equal work.
It’s not rocket science
Creating the conditions for women to succeed and thrive isn’t that hard – and it’s the right thing to do. Supporting women and nurturing their achievements – within their own definition of success – is good for women, families and society, and it’s also good for business.