By Pamela Yanchik Connealy, CFO and COO at Kiva(opens in new tab)
⏰ 4-minute read
Research suggests that advancing women’s equality in business could add trillions to the global GDP. This, in turn, could mean more prosperity for your U.S. business.
Busy startup lifestyles leave little time for reacting to gender equality issues at work. However, a proactive approach is easier and stops discrepancies before they start.
The seven practices below will ensure your company empowers women, both in your office and globally.
Consider this: Over 2.7 billion women around the world(opens in new tab) are legally restricted from having the same job choice as men, according to recent insights from UN Women. And in 40 percent of all economies, women’s early-stage entrepreneurial activity is less than half of men’s.
As a founder or an entrepreneur in the U.S., it is often easy to lose sight of this global discrepancy. But here’s why you should keep it top-of-mind:
UN Women cites research suggesting that in OECD countries(opens in new tab), gender gaps cause an average income loss of 15 percent(opens in new tab). These countries’ combined GDP could grow by $6 trillion(opens in new tab) if we increased female employment there, by some estimates.
Advancing women’s equality in business could add $12 trillion to the global GDP(opens in new tab) by 2025, per a 2015 report from McKinsey & Company.
In other words, realizing gender equality lifts all nations and consequently may lift your business.
This is an amazing vision, with amazing dollar amounts attached. In order to achieve it, though, public, private and social sectors need to work together to close gender gaps(opens in new tab) in the workplace and broader society.
This discrepancy hits home.
Although the U.S. is more advanced than most of the world in terms of women’s workplace equality, women still earn 20 percent less than men on average, according to the Census Bureau. Historical inequalities are woven into the fabric of the U.S. work system. They take incredible awareness and effort to remove. While a startup lifestyle leaves very little time for any such reactive activities, being proactive about removing barriers for women is really not that hard.
Founding a company(opens in new tab) involves not only risk and drive but also privilege. Early-stage companies have the unique opportunity to implement best practices that ensure women are equals in their workplaces from the get-go. And it is to their advantage to do so: After all, if women didn’t participate in the labor force, the economy would operate without the talents and abilities of 51 percent of the population.
7 ways to immediately ensure women are equals in your workplace:
- Pay men and women equally, and leverage the data to tell you how well you are doing(opens in new tab) in this regard. This is not one-and-done--you should do it every year, or even twice a year if you are growing quickly.
- Highlight and mentor(opens in new tab) women. The same goes for colleagues who don’t share your race or ethnicity. We don’t all look, act or think the same, and we should celebrate that.
- All ideas need to be amplified in our workplaces. Look at who you trust--who is truly in your inner circle? Are there women or colleagues from a variety of races and cultures? If not, you’re missing out on amazing ideas that will go elsewhere to work with more open and interesting people.
- Every process you design in your growing organization has a potential for bias. If you want to hire women and folks from diverse backgrounds but white men comprise the the hiring team, how do you think these candidates feel?
- Look at the language in the job descriptions on your career page. Is it a laundry list of “required skills and experience”? Research suggests that women tend to read this list and not apply if they can’t check every box, while men are more likely to apply anyway.
- Consider how your organization supports single parents, who are not always women, but historically they make up the majority of this group. Can single parents thrive in your environment? Even something as wonderful as a celebratory team dinner can create stress for a single parent who must spend on childcare and juggle schedules in order to attend. Get out of your own life, and be curious about the lives of others on your team. Think through your parental leave program.
- Get the whole company onboard with empowering women globally. If you set your employees’ sights on global equality as a corporate community-service project, then they’ll likely be more apt to foster an empowering environment for women in your local HQ. (A personal plug: My employer, a nonprofit called Kiva(opens in new tab), can set you up with an employee engagement program(opens in new tab) through which your employees can make loans to female entrepreneurs worldwide(opens in new tab) with company funds.)
The bottom line
Empowering women at your company is worthwhile from not only a principle standpoint but also a financial one. Concentrate on setting up infrastructures that support women before equality becomes an issue at your company.
Your efforts will be rewarded: Your company will likely profit, the global economy will certainly profit, and women worldwide will realize the benefits and freedom that come with a fulfilling career.
♀️ Pamela Yanchik Connealy is the CFO and COO at Kiva(opens in new tab), an organization committed to expanding financial access to help underserved communities thrive.
Hear from her and other female leaders at SuiteWorld19(opens in new tab), a conference about growing beyond in business.