We’re wrapping Women’s Month. As a woman, I think it’s great we spend March celebrating women’s achievements throughout history. It’s also telling that we need a special month to be reminded.
I’m lucky; as woman business owner (and the only women owned dealership in the Pittsburgh region *doffs chapeau*), I can put standards and procedures in place to ensure women are equally compensated, and create culture that demands fair and respectful treatment.
You would agree this is the least I can do. You would be forgiven for thinking this is the law. (Most people believe the Equal Rights Amendment is part of US constitutional law. It is not. If you wonder whether the women you work with think about this, let me assure you, they do.)
I Googled Women’s Day In the Workplace, and there are literally thousands of listicles, articles, books, and blogs talking about how employers can demonstrate support of women in the workplace. These are full of straightforward ideas and concrete action items, and they’re available to all of us, so I won’t detail them here. But I do have a suggestion that I haven’t seen:
Ask women how they’re doing.
We’re two years into a pandemic. In 2020, women left the workforce in droves, and those that stayed juggled jobs, kids, schooling, households and more. They were exhausted then, and they’re exhausted now. As leaders, we should be invested in knowing how they are, and what they need.
Employers can approach this by thinking big and small. Investments in celebrating women and building a family-friendly culture should start by paying attention to what women need at work. Big gestures are appreciated, but small conversations are just as crucial. A new mom might share her old task chair just isn’t cutting it anymore. Another may need adjustment to the work schedule. Perhaps another with a chronic illness has an ask out-of-the-box ask. Opening the door to sharing needs offers a way to provide real support that’s meaningful and personal.
This is a conversation I believe leaders should have with the women and woman-identifying members of their teams regularly. It’s not that women have special requirements, or that it’s ‘harder’ for women at work (though, now that I type that, I could make a case for both). It’s that we are accustomed to making do, working around, and succeeding in spite of. A conversation about how to make things better, one person at a time, is beneficial for both of you.
Actions of all size do more than matter. A leader who ensures the well-being of their team is a good leader. One who does it directly and with an open heart demonstrates a commitment to women in the workplace. In this case, a simple conversation says “you deserve much more than a month.”
My very best,
Mary Frances Hogan President + Ringmaster burkeMICHAEL+