Women In The Workplace: One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind
Recent legislature, like ‘The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014,’ which addresses critical issues facing women entrepreneurs, highlights the fact that women have yet to acquire full equality with men in the professional world. While legislature addressing these problems will help the situation in many ways, it is only one step. In order to reach workplace equality for women, business owners, managers and executives must take the next steps themselves.
It’s Not Easy
The lack of women in managerial, or ownership positions, is due to the residual effects from societal norms of the past. Historically, women were barred from managerial and ownership roles due to policy, law and cultural mores. Today, many of those restrictions have since been revoked; however, their effects do not disappear automatically. It takes time and active engagement to repudiate the effects of history.
According to the bill, women-owned companies make up only an estimated 30% of all U.S. businesses (employing 6% of the American workforce and receiving 4% of federal contract funding). In order to help more women-owned businesses grow, other owners must deviate from traditional contract models to build relationships with women-owned businesses.
Taller Hurdles Require Higher Leaps
Due to historical and systematic repression, women have a different set of obstacles to overcome than their male counterparts in the industry. As a leader of both male and female employees, it is the business owner’s duty to consider these factors when making executive, employee-related, decisions.
In an article by McKinsey and Company, “Women Matter,” the authors state that a primary step is integrating female employees into each facet of the business. Business leaders can ensure for each meeting that, at least, one woman is present; when hiring for open positions, that, at least, one woman is interviewed; and when designing a team, that, at least, one woman is assigned.
While these steps may seem unnecessary, they are essential in order to actively work towards full equality for women in the workplace. Institutional sexism can not be combated passively.
More than Just Fair Play, It’s Good Business
The benefits of equal opportunity for women in the workplace extend far beyond fair play. According to “Women Matter,” companies gain numerous performance benefits from gender diversity. For the business owner, taking these steps to ensure that a woman or woman-owned business is always at least considered for a job, partnership or opportunity, increases a business’ chances for possible earnings and payouts.
Additionally, in a study by nonprofit organization Catalyst titled, ‘The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards,’ researchers discovered that companies with the most female board directors outperformed those with the least by 16% on return-on-sales and by 26% on return-on-invested-capital.
By electing not to actively seek women for open positions, nor invite women-owned businesses for contracts, businesses limit their own opportunities for growth. While someone’s gender seems, according to these studies, to determine whether they’d be hired, it does not determine a person’s ability to work. By not taking these extra steps, business owners can risk losing out on opportunities, which would greatly benefit their businesses.