5 Ways Businesses of All Sizes Can Empower Women
Empowering women in business doesn’t start and stop on International Women’s Day (IWD). The way that progress can truly be made for any critical movement requires attention all throughout the year. So, think about it: When did you last host or attend an event related to diversity, inclusion, and fairness, or discuss your business’s stance on women’s equality in the workplace? If the last memory that pops into your mind was March 2018, consider this list your new priority.
Another reason to prioritize the matter is the fact that diverse organizations are more successful as they leverage innovation and multiple viewpoints, and are more reflective of their actual customers. So keep reading to discover how your business can make a difference and why they should, in the strive towards gender equality, in the future of your work culture, and in the career paths of all of your female employees, every single day - including March 8th.
01. Connect women with female mentors
Sharing stories and experiences has always been one of the most effective ways to change minds and provoke action. That’s why pairing up women with strong female role models is one of the many ways to empower your employees to succeed in both your company and their industries.
For example, if a woman is just starting out in her career, connecting her with more experienced figures who are already established in their professions - such as women entrepreneurs and other female leadership roles - could be beneficial in helping her define her career path.
Another benefit of a strong mentor-mentee connection is building your female employees’ confidence in their ability to thrive in their profession. This is particularly crucial if the work environment is mostly male dominated - looking up to females holding senior roles can contribute to their confidence towards earning and claiming those higher up, influential positions.
02. Remind women that they are valued
Oftentimes, women in predominantly male workplaces feel intimidated to voice their opinions, for fear of coming off as too outspoken. The opposite also holds true, where they might try to act like “one of the men” just to get their views heard.
This is why it’s important to remind women that they are respected for who they are and that you hired them for their own unique perspective, skills, dedication, and strong work ethic. Although it might seem obvious to you, you have no idea how someone else feels unless you’re in their shoes. Even if you’re also a female employee, you don’t know how a coworker internally processes situations and what they’ve encountered personally. So, do your best to be compassionate and honest with how you feel about every woman’s performance.
There are multiple ways that your business can implement these values. The first step is bias training and awareness, as you won’t know what you’re doing wrong until you confront your actions head on. Next, you can promote a safe environment where everyone can voice their concerns and challenges, as well as know who to turn to for help. Finally, promote dedicated activities or training for women, like public speaking events, negotiations, and focus/support groups. Ideally you should offer these opportunities to all minorities, so that everyone can feel empowered to flourish at work for who they are.
03. Accommodate all of your workers’ personal needs
True fact: Your employees have lives outside of your workplace. Whether theirs include family-related priorities or other extracurriculars, it’s important to encourage them to pursue these needs and interests - no matter what gender they identify with.
For example, allow parents to leave early when necessary, offer competitive parental leave, and support the overall work-life balance of your coworkers with flexibility wherever you can. By enabling your employees to tend to the many demands and desires in their lives, they will be able to thrive personally. In turn, they will be more grateful to work for your company, hence increasing their loyalty and productivity.
You can even go above and beyond just encouraging it, but rather being proactive about it. At Wix, we not only send out company-wide emails celebrating every new parent, but we also organize family days of festivities and picnics. In addition to family, we occasionally have guest professionals come in to discuss everything from financials (buying a house, investing, etc.) to hosting happy hours, craft events, and game nights.
The way we see it, the more fun and flexibility you can offer your employees, the more enthusiastic they will be when it comes to caring about their job’s responsibilities and relationships with coworkers - making everyone happier.
04. Volunteer for women-related causes
Women are highly underrepresented in many sectors of the workplace. For example, women in technology account for only 20% of the jobs - and the situation is not getting any better with the years. Certainly, hiring an equal gender employee force is one way to make a difference. At Wix, we are proud to share our most recent statistics, which shows that women represent 41% of our total employees and make up 38% of our management team.
Another way you can actively do so on a regular basis is by getting involved with volunteer opportunities for women-related causes. Ask around your local network to figure out the most valuable places where you can invest your time, i.e, Hackathons aimed at women, meetups, speaker events, etc.
A powerful initiative we’ve taken on at Wix is our very own Women in Tech forum. It was started by two strong leaders at our company, Aviva Peisach (Wix Backend Engineering Manager) and Moran Weber (Senior FEB Developer at Wix Academy). The forum hosts monthly meetings aimed at diversity, women’s empowerment and technology. This goal is achieved through guest speakers - typically senior women in the tech world - who share their knowledge, expertise and obstacles they’ve overcome throughout their professions. Along with this, there are also panels covering everything from interviews and self-branding to mentoring, and career paths. It’s open to the general public, both men and women, to encourage its purpose: we can only solve things if we work together. With a humble goal of changing the world (or at least increasing diversity in the high-tech realm) this initiative creates a community for collaborations as well as letting women know that they are not alone in their journeys.
Different feedback we’ve received has helped us realize how much of a difference we’re truly making with this forum. Women who attended felt like they were able to overcome a confidence gap, realizing their full potential as leaders, team players, and negotiators. However, it surprisingly has gone far beyond that. More often than not, women aren’t just coming to learn new skills, but rather asking how they can pay it forward and help others - a question which arises almost immediately after attending an event.
05. Support International Women’s Day
Of course, you should respect and empower women in the workplace every single day. In addition to that, it’s also important to honor the one day each year dedicated to a push for women’s rights - and this is a push for everyone, not just women. Therefore, all genders in your company should be welcomed to participate in the day’s events.
For example, if your employees want to take off a morning to join a march, show your respect by allowing it, without question. It’s also possible to be proactive, by hosting events or giving away branded items for the day - something worth more than just a positive PR-move, but a humble acceptance towards all of your employees and their worth at your company.
At Wix, we’ve made sure to make International Women’s Day a priority for us. Throughout the year, we work on empowering all of our employees and users (business owners, artists, designers, influencers, agencies, and more). Yet this day, we do something a little extra. We’re hoping what we did in the past and what we do this year will inspire your business too.
Two years ago for IWD 2017 we passed out T-shirts which said “these boots were made for leading” to honor the day and our late, beloved Head of Community and PR, Vered Avrahami. Not only did she love to strut her boots, but she was a powerful and inspiring woman who believed in equality for all - and we do too. So for IWD 2018, we wanted to continue that strive for empowerment and acceptance. Of course we made shirts (with the words “GRL PWR”), but that wasn’t all. We also had an amazing Wix user, Sara George Durhman speak about her path as a self made-entrepreneur, single mother of five, and running her own web design agency. Her vision to create and build her business and a better world was truly an inspiration that afternoon.
This year, we plan on making the event even more inclusive. We thought hard about a t-shirt design in order to get it just right. Printed on the front: “Nobody does it better #thinkequal” - a phrase everyone, no matter what gender they are, can relate to. We’re bringing the company together for one big event, where we will be honoring equality among our Wix employees and their work environments - from San Francisco to Tel Aviv to Kiev, and beyond. At the event we will have guest speaker and Wix user, Maresa Friedman, talk about her journey as an independent business woman, strategic advisor, speaker, wife and mother from San Diego.
So, maybe your company will make t-shirts, maybe they will march together, or maybe you will just create a social post honoring your talented employees. Whatever you do, do it from your heart, and remember the great brains that got you to where you are today.
By Jennifer Kaplan