“She likes to run alone. No pressure, no stress. This is the one place she can be herself. Look any way she wants, dress, think any way she wants. No game playing, no rules.” (What Women Want (2000))
Unfortunately, life isn’t like it is in the films – although I do suspect there are more than a few people out there who would like to get into the heads of those around them at times just to know what it is they are thinking!
There is no doubt that the past 12 months have turned workplaces on their heads and in so many cases have left employees feeling that they are struggling to do their jobs.
Women in particular have been impacted hugely with juggling their careers, childcare and the home and as a result many women are considering something that would have been unthinkable a year ago – leaving the workforce in an attempt to either bring back some balance or simply to survive.
The long-term effect of this is going to be pretty devastating, not just to individuals but also to businesses who will lose out on talent and experience. However, it can also be seen as an opportunity now for companies to invest in their workforce and start creating a more agile and flexible workplace.
But how? And how do you know if this is what women really want? Here are a few suggestions (from a woman):
- Flexibility in working hours. Many of us have proven we can work well from home, and to a large extent the weight of the issues this has thrown up with juggling everything has been carried by women (although not exclusively). Now is a great time to think about how remote working can work in the future. Have discussions about agile working and hybrid working. Be flexible about what suits individuals and what they must balance in their lives. The more businesses do this, the more it will be rewarded with loyalty – and which employer wouldn’t want that? Look at outcomes rather than the number of hours spent at a desk, or in Zoom meetings. The results will speak for themselves.
- Everybody wants to be trusted as well as respected and heard – and then ultimately rewarded and recognised for their contribution. Sometimes women feel they need to provide more evidence that they are capable and competent. Create a trusting and inclusive culture where this is no longer necessary. Equality is equality, right?
- Equality. This is not about putting women ahead of others. Women don’t want positive discrimination. This is about equal pay, opportunities ability to progress and status. Women want to be chosen for a role simply because they are the best person to do it and without prejudice (conscious or unconscious) about whether they are “of childbearing age” or lacking in ambition because they have a family.
- Authenticity. Nobody should hide who they truly are to get on in their career and trying to be somebody else will only end in tears. Encourage an atmosphere where people can be themselves, which in turn will unleash creativity and a much happier workforce.
So, to summarise – what do women want at work? The answer… the same as anybody else – fair pay, flexibility, opportunities to work on things that spark their passions and the ability to be themselves.
And why shouldn’t they get it? Engaged and passionate employees are indisputably good for business.
Credit to www.lizandmollie.com for the image
Paula Early (HR Adviser and Paralegal)