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Creating meaningful progress towards empowerment and equality in the workforce

Summary

Meaningful progress towards supporting the needs and wellbeing of women while creating equal opportunities in the workforce requires on-going commitment and an organization-wide understanding of its importance.

The last two years since the onset of the global pandemic have transformed life as we know it. It has made us redefine how we work, how we interact and connect with people and changed so many aspects of our day-to-day lives.  

Despite the accelerated change, before, during and post-pandemic, one thing remains consistent – women have been working hard to support and provide for their families, keep up with the demands of work and contribute to their communities. They are mothers, daughters, wives, volunteers, frontliners, leaders and employees who are doing their best for the people around them every day.  

With many having to balance personal and work responsibilities, especially with the unique demands that come from working from home or with hybrid work models, there is an opportunity for companies to do more to support their female employees to thrive at work, ascend to leadership roles and attract more female talent.  

While there is no doubt that female empowerment and gender equality in the workplace is one of the leading topics today, and many companies are implementing valuable initiatives to support, retain and attract more female talent, the pace of progress is slow despite greater societal awareness. A recent survey conducted by Randstad Canada suggests that women see minor improvements on barriers at work and 63 per cent felt that they were not given equal opportunities as their male counterparts. 

When it comes to burnout and mental well-being, most notably for working mothers, 46 per cent said it has been exhausting trying to balance work and childcare responsibilities while 27 per cent are afraid to take time off work for fear of losing their jobs, according to a 2021 survey by the Canadian Women’s Foundation.  

Meaningful progress towards supporting the needs and wellbeing of women while creating equal opportunities in the workforce requires on-going commitment and an organization-wide understanding of its importance. Here are some ways how companies can work towards driving change – for better.   

Help female employees balance work and the demands of everyday life 

Over the last few years, even before COVID-19, many companies launched initiatives to support the overall health and mental well-being of their employees. Today, many companies have embraced flexibility, which is especially valued by working mothers who may have to juggle childcare while working from home.  

However, with the flexibility for employees to manage their own time and remote working being the norm, it is easy to be constantly “switched-on” for work, which may lead to burnout. A 2021 report from McKinsey on Women in the Workplace indicates that burnout is still on the rise, particularly among women, and although there is no easy solution to mitigating burnout, continuous efforts to enhance policies and programs for employee well-being are important. The world is changing rapidly and along with it, the kind of support employees need to not only thrive in their work, but also care for their overall health and mental well-being. Listening and understanding unique employee needs while proactively looking for opportunities to enhance or create new initiatives to help female employees balance the demands of work and life will go a tremendously long way. 

“There are days when juggling the demands of work alongside responsibilities as a woman, daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend can be overwhelming. Self-doubt creeps in. Am I doing enough? Am I letting people down? Knowing I work for an organization that genuinely cares about our mental health and backs that up with unlimited access to a 3rd party support system gets me through the toughest days so I can continue to be my best version of me – at work and at home.” 

– Judy Halladay, Product Marketing Manager 

Enable women to pursue leadership roles 

For companies with an imbalanced representation in leadership, an important step is enabling female employees to pursue executive roles. This balance not only illustrates an organization’s commitment to cultivating a culture of diversity, it can also influence decision-making on important policies that can help pave the way toward gender equality in the workforce while broadening an organization’s lens to remove blind spots in developing customer-facing initiatives and strategies.  

By virtue of often being fewer in number, female leaders are role models to many junior employees and often serve as mentors to other women looking to advance in their careers. Certainly, both men and women can be inspiring role models or mentors and all mentorship brings value to a developing career, however, a female executive leader as a mentor for an employee with her sights on a leadership role can uniquely empathize with the experience and challenges faced by women aspiring to move into an executive position.  

“You do need to have that mentor; you do have to have that person to give that other opinion at the leadership panel. You have to have that person that puts up their hand and says – why wouldn’t we hire her or let’s get her in here and I’ll help train her – It has to start from the top down.” 

– Kara Hubick, Director of Sales 

Having female role models and mentors is important to an individual’s development, however, successful companies are also showing an active interest in their female employees’ career development and advancement. Making the effort to recognize their achievements, celebrate them, listen to their career goals, provide skills development and empower them to achieve their professional goals is a sure-fire path to a stronger, more inclusive corporate culture which, over time, translates into a stronger, healthier business.  

Be the change of today for a more equal and inclusive tomorrow 

Creating meaningful progress towards a diverse, equal and inclusive workforce takes more than a statement of commitment. It’s the bravery an organization shows in recognizing the opportunity for change and the focus they put on these issues. Recognizing the gaps, bringing light to them and showing genuine effort is what leads to successfully driving change – for better. 

“The bottom line of a business is important, but you have to be open to those unconscious biases. If we keep doing the same things as we’ve done in the past, we will not be able to create the meaningful change we need or attract the right talent that the business needs that will, in turn, contribute to its future growth.” 

– Stephanie Sextus, Sales Manager 

Profitability is critical to a successful business – but so is leading with a heart. Be sincere and consistent in your efforts towards empowerment and equality. Be the kind of company that leads with empathy and cares about the well-being of not only your female employees – but everyone – within your community and society at large. Not only will you be on your way towards creating meaningful change, but you will also attract and retain the right talent your business needs for overall long-term growth and success.  

In anticipation of this year’s International Women’s Day, Ricoh Canada is proud to support Women of Influence in celebrating Canada’s most accomplished role models who have left their mark and initiated lasting change – for better. Join us virtually on March 8 and meet the women who have broken through barriers, reached impressive heights in their careers, or initiated important conversations to create a better tomorrow and a more inclusive society.

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