In the last decade, the women’s activewear industry has grown into a $125 billion dollar a year industry. Yet one of the biggest names in activewear — Nike — struggled to gain a foothold. No one could understand why that was until early on in 2018, when an informal survey of the female Nike employees landed on the desk of Nike CEO Mark Parker. Pages and pages of allegations of workplace abuse led to a mass exodus of male Nike executives. Women spend 58% of all online dollars in the US, make up roughly 50% of the workforce, and own nearly 30% of the companies. That’s a lot of spending power.
Companies would be wise to not only listen to the women their company, but create a more nurturing environment for them. Here are three ways to support the women at your company and ensure that they feel heard.
Make it a priority to cultivate female leadership
In spite of owning one-third of the businesses in the US, when women work for other companies, they hold less than 25% of all senior leadership roles. It’s not enough to simply lament the lack of female leadership in your company, you need to actively recruit, mentor, train, and promote female leaders. You also need to ensure that those female professionals have the knowledge to do the same for more women instead of falling into an “old boys’ club” mindset with the male executives.
Seek specific feedback from female employees
Pop culture contains no shortage of jokes about men talking over women, mansplaining, and engaging in other types of boorish behavior. The very fact these jokes permeate almost every aspect of pop culture would seem to point to the fact that men are very aware of their behavior and just do not care. This attitude creates an environment in which women simply don’t even bother to speak up because clearly everyone knows these things happen, but no one does anything besides make a joke about it and laugh. Meanwhile, most businesses think this is the sort of thing that happens at other businesses, but certainly not their own. Businesses need to make it a priority to actually solicit honest feedback from women and then act on that feedback if they ever hope to convince women they actually matter in the company.
Create programs of both male and female sponsorship
In many companies, women are paired with female mentors or sponsors while men are paired with male mentors and sponsors. Research shows, however, that sponsorship by male executives can have a profound impact on a woman’s career path. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need female mentorship as well, but rather that women, in particular, benefit most from a good blend of both.