Celebrating women in the workplace on International Women’s Day 2023

Some of the great initiatives created for women by women

At Let’s Talk Talent, we are lucky enough to come into contact with lots of amazing people doing great work to support women in the workplace, from promoting better work life balance and wellbeing to smashing the glass ceiling.

We are proud to be part of an industry that both advocates for, and is at the forefront of, innovation when it comes to gender equality. On International Women’s Day 2023, we’d love to call some of these people out to raise awareness of the great work they do.

We also hope this work inspires you, gives you some ideas of your own that you can bring to your organisation. Or even lights a spark that gets you to set up your very own initiative to support women in the workplace.

The business case for championing women in the workplace

Creating a more diverse talent pool that supports and encourages women has many proven benefits for businesses. More inclusive environments foster psychological safety, which in turn leads to higher energy, innovation, and increased performance. It has been established that companies with women on their boards perform better and tend to be more efficient; a clear advantage for the bottom line. And in a talent shortage, not optimising your business to support female workers is a clear path towards a painful talent drain.

It’s important to note that offering flexible working hours is no longer enough to get, keep, and grow great people – and great women in particular. What is required is a diversified workforce with voices and perspectives from all levels within your organisation.

What can you do to achieve this? Here are some innovative ideas, from some of the great people we know and love.

1. Promoting rest and wellbeing for women in the workplace

Whilst it’s true that this applies to your entire talent pool and not just women in particular, it is a well-known fact that women often have more responsibilities to juggle with, childcare, and overall caregiving. Research shows that “(…) women leaders report higher rates of burnout, chronic stress and exhaustion.” How can this be avoided?

Organisations need to give employees permission to take time off. “We shouldn’t have to be always on,” says Jo Taylor, MD at Let’s Talk Talent. This means no messaging after working hours, letting people take holidays undisturbed, and ensuring their workload is taken care of while they’re away.

This could also mean setting up spaces in the office for wellbeing, or wellbeing programmes. We particularly love the new pilot projects where organisations are trialling nine-day fortnights.

News of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as Prime Minister of New Zealand has brought home the reality that women are often expected to burn themselves out, and hopefully has given some women permission to protect their energy. Working for an organisation that helps you do that can go a long way towards improving performance and motivation.

2. Normalising the big transitions in women’s journeys

There are many key milestones in a woman’s personal and professional journey, and feeling supported through these transitions is key.

We have recently worked with a global insurance provider to redesign their new parental leave policies. These detailed the support offered to parents of all genders and in all situations, from pregnancy to fostering and adoption, as they prepared to transition into parenthood, and then back into work.

Group coaching allowed participants to share their knowledge with others from all stages of the process, whilst personal training helped them address their particular challenges. The programme engaged with managers as well, so they could best support their employees as they come back into their role as a new parent. 

We’d also like to mention the great work done by Nikki Gatenby, author of SUPERENGAGED, on raising awareness on the topic of menopause. Nikki is working hard to change the lives of women and ensure they have a positive menopause by creating content such as podcasts, interviews, articles and videos. This is an important life event, which sometimes requires managers to handle delicate situations. Here, up-skilling your managerial fleet is crucial.

Pregnancy loss and miscarriages are also issues that affect many women and require organisations to demonstrate sensitivity and provide support. The Worst Girl Gang organisation does a fantastic job of helping women going through pregnancy loss or a miscarriage. Both their book and their podcast are amazing resources.

3. Working to close the gender pay gap

Unfortunately, gender pay disparity is still very much a current issue. Whilst things are slowly evolving, some organisations are working hard to close that gap.

Our client HarperCollins UK, and Director of People John Athanasiou have made some great strides in this particular area. Recognising the issue of an industry majority made up of women, with few women holding senior leadership positions, HarperCollins UK set to work to improve things. They have devised clear and consistent pay and progression criteria, which are openly communicated. This sets a solid foundation of transparency that benefits the company’s entire talent pool.

4. Creating women’s mentorship schemes and offering coaching opportunities

Mentorship schemes are great tools that boost women’s careers and improve their access to bigger and better opportunities. Here, Sally Henderson springs to mind. She works tirelessly to create high-performance senior teams and leaders. She coached LTT’s MD Jo Taylor, and regularly contributes to the HR community by taking part in important discussions and roundtables.

Curate42 co-founder Tiffany St James also provides great coaching resources through her Consultancy Club. She offers video training, collaborative sessions, connection opportunities, coaching, and a whole library of resources for consultants hoping to accelerate their professional journey.

Tracy Forsyth also set up a great example with the Women in Film and TV (WFTV) mentorship scheme.

Women’s networking schemes can help women in many ways. They provide opportunities to create valuable long-term business contacts, and allow participants to gain advice from peers and industry experts. Knowledge sharing and connections can really accelerate professional growth. Organisations including King’s College London and euNetworks are leaders in this area and have set up amazing women’s networking programmes that offer mentoring, coaching, and shadowing to their members.

5. Recognising differences in the workplace

Whilst this initiative wasn’t developed for women in particular, it was devised by an amazing woman who deserves plenty of recognition for it! Mel Francis’ work on creating HR departments with neurodiversity at their heart is groundbreaking. Mel trains organisations on how they can best support their neurodiverse workforce. She also regularly gives practical tips and advice aimed at championing neurodiversity in the workplace through interviews, podcasts and videos.

Great women supporting great women

What should organisations focus on during International Women’s Day 2023 and beyond?

“It’s about creating workplaces where everyone (and women in particular) feel they can be fully themselves,” states Jo. “A business’s biggest asset is the energy of its people. Give women the power to manage, protect, and replenish their energy levels,” she adds.

Employers should also provide support by up-skilling managers so they can deal with the transitions experienced by women, setting up coaching and mentoring schemes and being transparent about pay and progression guidelines. Women are unfortunately still behind, but thanks to the great people listed in this article, and the many more working every day to create gender equality, we are definitely moving in the right direction!

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