International Women's Day has become increasingly difficult for leaders to navigate as they face growing scrutiny and even criticism for their gender equality initiatives (or lack thereof!)
Panel discussions and social media posts, of course, have a role to play. But unless they're paired with a wider gender equality audit, these surface-level initiatives can fall short of the mark.
International Women's Day is a great day to kickstart meaningful, sustainable projects that will make work better for the women on your team. In fact, any day is a great day to do this.
It usually starts with gathering people from your team in one (physical or virtual) place and asking questions like, “Are we doing everything we can to foster equal access to opportunity?” and “How could we better support our female team members?”
So let's start there.
1. Survey your female team members
Don’t assume you know what’s best for your female team members. Aim for a collaborative approach that ensures women are part of the conversation, or better yet, leading it. An easy way to do this is by running a survey. Questions might include, “To what extent do you feel the company supports flexible working?” and “How happy are you with your opportunities for advancement?” Open-ended questions like, “What changes would you like to see made within the organisation?” can yield great insights, too.
Frankli tip: Create a custom survey in Frankli to gather anonymous feedback and ideas from women across the organisation.
2. Accommodate flexible and remote working arrangements
High-performing leaders know that, in order to get the best from your people, you need to focus on outcomes, rather than inputs like hours logged at a desk. This, of course, is good news for women, who carry out a disproportionate share of unpaid caregiving duties, and, as a result, cite flexible working hours and remote working opportunities as crucial to their success and wellbeing at work (1).
Frankli tip: Use digital goal-setting to seamlessly track performance across hybrid, remote and/or in-office teams.
3. Set company-wide goals for diversity, equality and inclusion
Many leadership teams talk about introducing gender-inclusive policies, but, for one reason or another, don’t get around to actually doing it. Setting goals with measurable key results and realistic timelines can ensure the work of gender inclusion actually gets done. Goals like, “Ensure 20% of Engineering team is female by 2024” and “Close the gender pay gap by the end of the year,” feel more achievable when you break them down into smaller tasks.
Frankli tip: Use the Goals tool to create and manage diversity OKRs. Set them to "public" to let your people know you’re serious about tackling unconscious bias.
4. Connect team members for coaching and mentorship opportunities
The data is really clear on this one - women who receive professional coaching thrive at work (2). And for many women, mentoring programmes are vital to their success (3). Plus, a recent study found that, when female executives mentor men, it helps to remedy inequality at work (5).
Frankli tip: Use Connect to set up a self-sustaining internal coaching and mentoring program. Your people can use the handy talking-point templates in 1:1 Meetings to give these sessions structure, or you can create bespoke agendas for your company.
5. Combat unconscious gender bias in performance reviews
It’s been well documented that negative gender stereotypes can creep into performance reviews (4), but there are a couple of things that HR teams can do to help make appraisals fairer. A Stanford Graduate School of Business study from 2020 (4) suggests combating gender bias by tying evaluations to performance, and providing reviewers with clear criteria for evaluating employees.
Frankli tip: Use the integrated Goals, 1:1 Meeting and Reviews tools to show reviewers the latest data on employee performance as they're writing their reviews. Frankli's library of research-based review questions provides a useful framework for feedback, and also brings consistency to appraisals.
6. Support employee-led career pathways
Countless studies have found that women aren’t short on ambition, they just require support to get to where they want to be (6). Regular career-focused conversations with managers are essential, while employee-led career pathways with concrete steps offer clarity and transparency.
Frankli tip: Use the Career Pathways tool to help employees plan and visualise their next role, and encourage managers to schedule quarterly, career-focused conversations with their direct reports using the built-in agenda template.
7. Make successful women more visible in your organisation
Research tells us that, for women to succeed, they first need to see other women in the organisation thriving (7). One great way to promote this is through continuous feedback and dedicated channels for praise.
Frankli tip: Use the Feedback and People Directory tools to encourage employees to connect. Through career pathways, female employees can easily find female team members in roles they aspire to hold and request to connect with them for coaching or mentoring.
8. Ensure women’s voices are heard at work
It’s been widely shown in research that women are interrupted more frequently than men (8) and meetings are no exception. Tackling the issue of conversational dominance can be tricky, but using multiple channels for feedback - 1:1 meetings and written feedback, along with team meetings - can help level the playing field. Of course, we shouldn’t have to rely on alternative communication channels to ensure that women’s voices are heard, but until wider inequality issues are solved, it’s a helpful stopgap.
Frankli tip: Use Frankli's dedicated digital feedback channel to promote the sharing and requesting of feedback across the organisation.
1. Gallup, “The Pandemic Hit Women Hard; Here's What Leaders Must Do Next” (04/03/22). 2. BetterUp, “Why women need a coach” (22/04/2021). 3. Harvard Business Review, “Don’t Just Mentor Women and People of Color. Sponsor Them.” (30/06/2021). 4. American Sociological Review, “Inside the Black Box of Organizational Life: The Gendered Language of Performance Assessment” (12/2020). 5. University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law, ”Overcoming Gender Discrimination in Business: Reconsidering Mentoring in the Post #Me-Too and Covid-19 Eras” (19/11/2020). 6. McKinsey and Company, “The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in the United States” (07/04/2016). 7. McKinsey and Company, “Women in the Workplace 2021” (27/09/2021). 8. Forbes, “Gal Interrupted, Why Men Interrupt Women And How To Avert This In The Workplace” (01/03/2017).