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Women's empowerment at work
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Why do we only celebrate women's careers on International Women's Day?

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HR leaders must move beyond centering women’s growth only on International Women’s Day, instead offering both the environment and tools to nurture their development all year round.

8th Apr 2022
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Every March we celebrate International Women’s Day; a date to both recognise women’s achievements and highlight any roadblocks that impede their careers. It offers a dedicated opportunity for conversation and for measuring the progress of women in the workforce. 

However, as we move beyond International Women’s Day this year, HR leaders must recognise that these dialogues should not be confined to one specific day, week, or even season. Momentum on diversity and inclusion needs to be embedded into the day-to-day of how companies operate and into their long-term corporate strategy.

This requires specific commitments that go beyond representation stats and include the mechanisms that diverse employees rely upon for career growth. Enabling women’s progress is more than an international day – it needs concrete action from the modern HR leader. 

Movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have pushed employees to expect their companies to be much more conscious stewards of workplace culture

Shaping the cultural shift

The final quarter of 2021 saw almost one million people change jobs, in an unprecedented level of movement that the UK’s labour market has never experienced before. There are a variety of potential causes that go beyond the typical search for a new opportunity. Perhaps these people wanted to pursue a new passion discovered during lockdown or spend more time with loved ones. Increasingly though, one explanation is likely to be a key driver – company culture.

Movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have pushed employees to expect their companies to be much more conscious stewards of workplace culture. It is no longer enough to support diversity initiatives in a vague sense through sweeping corporate statements – people demand that these promises are backed up with action. Colleagues want to see cultural change that improves their day-to-day experience and opportunity. If these changes aren’t good enough? Companies are seeing that the best employees have the bargaining power, and the willpower, to take their talent elsewhere. 

How to listen and understand

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that leaders can wave to make their organisations more inclusive and supportive overnight. Nor is culture something that leaders can implement only from the board room; culture is more than “tone from the top”.

Leaders can provide the right tools to nurture people’s development in a more inclusive way, and cultural shift, will, in time, follow. As such, building a culture that nurtures women’s development is about providing access to nurturing mechanisms within the context of an environment that allocates the time and space for these mechanisms to be most effective.

New tools for women’s development should be considered part of a broader inclusion strategy that aims to empower those from a variety of different backgrounds

Data demonstrates that where people have the option to ask questions anonymously, the percentage of questions asked by women far exceeds their share of the workforce. This is an example of where providing the appropriate tools and mechanisms can encourage women to grow as leaders. Only through genuinely listening and understanding the challenges faced by women can companies provide the right mentorship and career support needed to help advance them in the workplace and achieve the inclusive culture we all want to see. 

Harmonise tools and strategy for culture success

New tools for women’s development should be considered part of a broader inclusion strategy that aims to empower those from a variety of different backgrounds to learn and succeed within your organisation. Within such a strategy, mechanisms such as mentoring, and training should sit alongside your representation initiatives and strong company values to ensure that your minority groups feel that the organisation is listening and truly values their growth.

In turn, this contributes to building a supportive and welcoming company culture, that will improve retention and employer brand. Across a variety of industries, slowly but surely, such strategies are driving cultures that value and support women’s progress to achieve their fullest potential. 

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