April 25, 2024

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5 ‘next horizon’ practices to help women excel in their careers

5 min read
5 ‘next horizon’ practices to help women excel in their careers
business woman at home desk looking at phone with great dismay and hand to forehead  (Photo: Shutterstock)

Recently, we’ve seen a much deserved and overdue spotlight on the challenges working women continue to face in our post-COVID world. Consider, for instance, that women remain underrepresented in leadership positions, and the gap widens the higher in the ranks you go. Studies tell us that men outnumber women increasingly at every level, beginning with the promotion from entry to manager, where only 87 women are promoted for every 100 men.

And women’s workforce participation overall continues to decline – in part because family caregiving responsibilities largely fall on women throughout all phases of life. In fact, one study shows that women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to have their employment affected by caregiver responsibilities.  In addition, many companies lack benefits that support conditions and experiences unique to women.

Globally, this has created a lose-lose situation: women are leaving the workforce based on the perception that they lack the support and opportunities to reach their full potential, and employers face significant gaps in their talent pipeline that hinder their ability to have strong female representation at all levels of the organization. As a result, this can hold companies back from achieving business outcomes and fostering a more diverse and inclusive working environment.

So, what can employers do to help women thrive in their careers? Here are five “next horizon” practices that can make a significant impact:

  1. Cultivate a learning culture: Enabling women to move into leadership roles begins with creating opportunities for growth and development. Research shows that when women mentor other women, both participants benefit, with 83% of mentors and mentees reporting that their mentoring experience increases their desire to stay at their organization – that’s powerful.

What we’ve found at Organon is that mentorship opportunities can take many different forms. Our women-focused Employee Resource Group is one example of how our people have built a community where employees and leaders can lean on and learn from one another. Because of this community, we’ve seen organic mentoring relationships take shape all across the company, with leaders eager to invest time to support their colleagues.

  1. Prioritize physical and mental wellness: Whether it’s dealing with a chronic illness, facing a difficult diagnosis, or contending with mental health issues, we all face challenging realities that can make it hard to focus on work. While everyone is impacted, studies show that women are more likely to rate their health worse than men, and more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression. And because there is an undeniable connection between employee physical and mental wellness and productivity, employers should take heed.

As a society, we need to do more to support women’s wellbeing. This is a deeply rooted and multifaceted issue, but one important place to start is investing in tools to ensure our people feel supported in the face of life’s challenges. Employee assistance programs, access to talk therapy, mental health-focused apps and comprehensive medical benefits are all part of the toolkit of resources we can offer to help our people focus on their physical and mental health.

In addition to providing tools to help our employees to prioritize their health every day, we’ve reinforced our commitment to their health and wellbeing by providing an extra day off around International Women’s Day to focus on their health. It’s been great to see our people make the most of this time, from scheduling appointments, to caring for a loved one, to simply enjoying a peaceful day of reflection.

  1. Break the mold with new leave policies: There are many reasons why employees may need time off from work that don’t fall under typical leave policies, such as family emergencies, managing menstrual pain or menopausal symptoms, and bereavement leave to grieve the loss of a pregnancy. It is time for new approaches that recognize the varying needs of our people and allow everyone to take the time they need to care for themselves and their families, regardless of traditional gender norms. This means implementing policies that promote and encourage shared responsibility for caregiving, ensuring women and men are supported and empowered to take time off.

For instance, we’ve established a Global Care Leave policy providing a minimum standard of 10 days pay continuation and/or time off for self-care, caring for a loved one, family planning and home emergency, where local and/or statutory policies do not already provide such coverage. Where other forms of leave are not available, we envision that employees can use Care Leave to take to manage menstrual pain and menopause symptoms, which can be debilitating, or for any other reason tied to their physical or emotional wellbeing. In addition, we recognized that standard bereavement policies did not include miscarriage or stillbirth as qualifying events, so we rewrote our policy to ensure that our employees can take up to 20 days of leave following the loss of a pregnancy or newborn, providing much needed time and space to begin the process of healing.

  1. Commit to global gender parity and pay equity: Enabling women to achieve their career aspirations requires systematic changes throughout organizations, from recruitment and retention, to career development, to managing pay and promotion. And while most organizations say that diversity, equity and inclusion is important, less than half have strategies in place for achieving gender equality. Leaders must put a stake in the ground by outlining concrete actions they are taking to drive change.

In Organon’s inaugural Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Report, we articulated our goal to achieve balanced gender representation through all levels of our company globally by 2030. To reach this goal, we strive to maintain our current global gender balance while increasing the number of women in mid- to senior leadership roles. In addition, we are promoting gender equity by engaging external economic and legal experts to conduct pay equity studies in two of our largest markets.

  1. Destigmatize speaking up: We need to do a better job giving people the opportunity to tell us what they are feeling and experiencing. By creating an environment of psychological safety where employees can share openly and honestly, we can gain a greater understanding of their needs, which allows us to create programs and policies to support them.

By listening to women, we’ve been able to identify unmet needs and think innovatively about how to fill the gaps in care. For example, many women have shared that they feel sandwiched between caring for families and their parents. Because of this, we’re now exploring additional ways to support our employees managing both child and elder care.

Related: A shift in the industry? Females in benefits talk changes, challenges, opportunities

We know that health, wellbeing, and economic empowerment are intrinsically linked. When we help women thrive at work, it pays dividends – for their own health and wellbeing, for the success of their organizations, for their families and their communities, as well. But we can’t build a new future with old rules. And that is why leaders and organizations must embrace and champion new policies and benefits to make way for a more equitable future.

Aaron Falcione, chief human resources officer at Organon

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