By Nancy Harris, EVP, Sage North America

 

As International Women’s Day approaches, we have the chance to pause and celebrate the trailblazers of women’s rights and recognise how far women have come over the past 100 years. Let’s be honest, one day each year just isn’t enough. As business leaders, it’s our duty to empower the women in our companies year-round.

 

Here are two ways that enterprises can help to advance gender equity in their workplace:

 

  1. Match employees with mentors, but make sure there’s no gender bias

 Women (and men) advance faster, perform better, and choose to stay with their companies longer when they have effective mentors. Mentors catalyse both professional and personal development. To help mitigate any gender bias, put in place a formalised mentorship program. Every manager should take on a mentee, and record progress and development throughout the year.

 

The programme will take off if your company sets aside designated spaces and time during the workday for mentorships, solidifying them as a crucial part of your organisation. It’s also important set up regular check-ins where both mentors and mentees can talk through program feedback, making sure the programme improves over time.

 

Most decisions that impact our careers are made when we aren’t even in the room. A great mentor can help give voices to junior employees when it comes to advocating for promotions, participating in big projects, and making new connections. But it shouldn’t all be up the mentor: the organisation should make also sure women are included in leadership networking events and have a voice in other forums.  

 

  1. Keep the dialogue open

The conversation around women’s advancement in the workplace should not begin and end with milestone dates like Women’s Day. Companies need to keep the dialogue flowing throughout the year. To keep women’s empowerment in the workplace top of mind, companies can organise regular events or delegate hours during the month to discuss opportunities and challenges and appoint people responsible for implementing ideas and plans.

 

The form of intentional dialogue can vary depending on a company’s culture. Companies can host casual roundtable lunches where small groups of women come to talk about their experiences, or larger formal events with panel discussions and breakout sessions about how to enact progress. Regular check-ins between leaders and women on their teams can be an effective way to keep the women in your office feeling empowered throughout the year.

 

Of course, creating a diverse and inclusive workplace goes beyond gender, yet many women see gender as a hurdle of career advancement. There needs to be significant change to not only create a level playing field, but to also create a culture where all colleagues can look past gender and utilise talents and skills to create winning teams and business growth. As business leaders, we must play an active role in creating a more inclusive culture and growing leaders from within.

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