Women’s History Month: four ways to help female staff progress

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

March 11 2022

Career-driven women have it tough. Between childcare responsibilities, health conditions, and vicious stereotypes, it's a juggling act.

It’s not easy for women. But you can make it easier.

Tackling barriers in the workplace isn’t something women can do alone. Companies need to change too. As it's Women’s History Month, here's how you can help your female staff succeed...

1. Consider flexible working

Women might struggle to manage childcare responsibilities with a 9-to-5 setup. What if there’s a playground emergency? What if they have to leave work at a moment’s notice?

You never want your workers to feel like they have to choose between children and a career. If they can’t manage their work-life balance, they might burn out, under perform, or quit.

When you offer flexible working to both men and women, it makes it easier for them to equally share childcare responsibilities. This can support womens’ progression by helping them to remain in work – and may potentially reduce the gender pay gap.

You could consider:

  • Staggered hours – adjusting working hours to fit around childcare responsibilities. 
  • Hybrid or remote working – making the school run and pick-up easier for staff with children. 
  • Job sharing or reduced duties to ease any pressure.

Take the stress off your female staff and they’re more likely to progress into higher positions.

2. Support women’s health conditions

Endometriosis, PCOS, and period poverty affect women and those assigned female at birth every day. These health conditions can lead to chronic pain, tiredness, and sometimes infertility.

Take practical steps to support your staff:

  • Educate yourself. The more you learn about women’s health conditions, the better you can support them.
  • Provide training to staff and raise awareness.
  • Have an open-door policy. Your employees might find it difficult to talk to you about their health conditions. They may be uncomfortable asking for time off. Make it clear that you understand their concerns and you’re willing to support them.
  • Make physical changes to the workplace. Do what you can to make your employees feel more comfortable at work.
  • Consider a more comfortable uniform.
  • Provide information about symptoms and treatments.

When you introduce policies around women’s health conditions, you cut the stigma. Policies raise awareness. This might make staff feel more comfortable discussing symptoms with their managers.

You might need to amend your policies to consider women’s health conditions if they aren’t currently up to date.

3. Introduce gender-friendly policies

You can go one step further to support women’s health conditions by introducing policies.  

Set up individual policies on endometriosis and menopause. Your policies should make your approach clear. Outline how you’ll support staff who experience symptoms.

You could also review existing policies and processes around:

  • Parental leave – Consider offering a generous shared parental leave package. Women might find it easier to share childcare responsibilities with their partners. This might also help them return to work sooner.
  • Flexible working – If you allow flexible working, write it up. Make sure your employees know what’s expected of them if they’re working flexibly.
  • Sick leave – If staff need to take time off due to conditions like menopause, make it clear how you will support them – such as providing enhanced sick pay.

4. Diversify your workplace

Do men dominate your workplace? This can make women workers feel isolated.

Does your company have many women in management? Do you have many women working for you? If women can’t see how they might progress, they may not apply.

Creating a more diverse workplace starts with changing your recruitment process. You can make recruitment more inclusive by the language you use in job descriptions. Stay neutral. Avoid male-coded words like ‘aggressive’ and ‘assertive’.

A study found that women typically apply for jobs they meet all the qualifications for. You can encourage more women to apply by:

  • Removing unessential requirements
  • Emphasising training
  • Asking everyone you interview the same questions

You can also create a ‘blind’ CV process and provide bias training to staff. Understanding hidden bias can help you overcome it. This will create a happier and more inclusive environment for everyone.

Make your workplace inclusive with up-to-date policies

Women struggle to climb the career ladder. If they face harassment or exclusion, it makes it harder for them to succeed in the workplace.

Want to support women? Want to build a more diverse workplace? Get it in writing. With Peninsula, your employment contract experts will review and draft up policies for you. You’ll also receive 24/7 HR support to stay up to date on how to help your female employees be the best they can be.

If you're not a Peninsula client, and you'd like to learn more about our support, get a free consultation on 0800 028 2420.

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