Nowadays, companies everywhere seem to be asking: how can we create an environment that promotes the advancement of women into leadership roles? This question is posed for good reasons. The representation of women in leadership improves financial performance and betters equity outcomes. Yet, women are still vastly underrepresented in corporate leadership.
Here are 3 science-backed tips for promoting women in your organization:
1. Build accountability in promotion practices
Account for obstacles to fair promotion strategies, such as stereotypes that disadvantage women leaders. Those making decisions about promotions should ask themselves how gender stereotypes may play a role in employee evaluations. Could bias be influencing who is seen as deserving a promotion?
This type of questioning could be as simple as reflecting on whether a decision would be the same if a candidate was a different gender or questioning whether women in your organization are held to higher standards. For a systematic approach, Cangrade’s solutions help you fairly evaluate candidates up for promotion by providing objective insights into their skills.
2. Develop flexible work-family policies that do not penalize women
To promote women to the highest levels of leadership, organizations must provide employees with fair and flexible policies, practices, and expectations. This is critical because women report more conflict between work and family obligations than men, and even report this difficulty as a direct barrier to their workplace progression. Luckily, the right policies can go a long way. Accommodating policies—like extended paid leave—are positively associated with women’s employment.
However, it is not enough for companies to merely offer these types of policies. Organizations also need to adjust for the different consequences that men and women face when using them. Using benefits like parental status or flexible work arrangements can result in different evaluations for men and women that affect promotions. HR professionals can protect against unintended harm by educating managers on the benefits of such policies and preparing managers to implement these policies fairly.
3. Leverage men as allies
Work strategically with men who support efforts to promote women in your organization (a.k.a. your male “allies”). While men may be unsure of how to support women’s advancement, there are numerous allyship behaviors that you can introduce in your workplace. Research recommends having powerful men in your organization sponsor or mentor women, encouraging men to recognize women’s contributions formally and informally (e.g., nominations for awards or credit given for their ideas), and having men challenge instances of gender discrimination. Engaging men in these behaviors can create a workplace more conducive to women’s professional development.
When working to promote women up the corporate ladder, organizations must remove the obstacles that impede their advancement. Accounting for gender biases in promotion processes, enforcing flexible policies, and enlisting the help of male allies can help businesses accomplish this goal.
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