There’s been a lot of attention paid recently to women in the workforce and how they’re treated. From the wage gap to discrimination to various forms of harassment, it’s clear that gender inequality is a pervasive and ongoing problem. As a female business owner myself, I’m proud to say that my company does not tolerate this. As a woman, I’m thankful that I don’t experience this. And speaking as a woman — particularly in a male-dominated field — I wanted to take the opportunity to help empower my fellow women.
It’s no secret that women are good for business. Compared to a male-dominated staff, gender-diverse teams are measurably more innovative. Studies have shown that gender-diverse teams are more open to sharing ideas and knowledge, and more likely to take risks and experiment with those ideas. They are also more productive. Teams with more women are associated with higher performance ratings, closer adherence to schedules and budgets, and even higher pay bonuses.*
“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”
– Virginia Woolf, born January 25, 1882
Even knowing how valuable women can be as leaders in business and industry, companies are slow to adapt to a more encouraging environment for women. On the other side of the equation, women all too often suffer from what’s referred to as the “confidence gap”. So we have a dual-edged sword of companies who are not prepared to diversify their workforce, and a potential workforce of women who don’t feel like they belong there. In short, nobody wins.
What To Do
Just as the problem is two-fold, there are two sets of solutions for improvement.
For businesses, start by setting a specific intention to seek out women for job openings and leadership positions. It’s human nature to gravitate to those who are most “like us”. Incorporating more women, particularly in tech-based industries, will require intentionally assessing a full complement of potential employees and partners. Even the wording in job postings can be improved to be more welcoming and encouraging to female applicants. The National Center for Women & Technology has a wonderful toolkit for businesses: “Ten Actionable Steps To Increasing Diverse Participation” (full webinar). Again, much of this is a matter of setting intentional change in the workplace.
For women, the solution is somewhat daunting, and one that demands lifelong attention. While universities, businesses, friends, and neighbors can all take steps to encourage women to succeed, we are still our own worst enemy. I was reading a recent blog post that likened the female experience (for lack of a better term) to trying to bake something from a half-written recipe, and then blaming ourselves when it doesn’t work. When the loudest voice against you is the one inside your own head, it’s up to you to create a community of support. (And then, believe what they tell you!)
One of my favorite resources is Women Who Code. Not everything they offer directly relates to me professionally, nor does it need to. But it reminds me of my own potential and the potential of other women. Being the social media junkie that I am, I actually get more out of their social posts than their actual website resources! But it’s all fantastic.
Not in a tech field? No problem! The good news is that for every type of endeavor you can imagine, there’s probably a network for it. Social media comes in really handy for making connections, both online and offline. For myself personally, I love hearing stories from women who are making a difference, so when I need a pick-me-up, I’ll watch a TED Talk or two.
No matter who you are, or where you fit in your current profession, you are needed. And the more we listen to and respect one another, the more we can accomplish together. Believe in yourself, find others who believe in you, and get ready to conquer the world!