The Importance of Female Empowerment in the Workplace with Tara Haddad
Some Simple Ways Companies Can Support and Raise Up Women
Over the past seven decades, women have made great strides in the workplace. In the 1940s, during World War Two, women were called upon to fill the roles left vacant in industry by their male counterparts who shipped off overseas to fight. Upon their return, the men who survived the war retook their jobs, and those women — who were so crucial in keeping home front production running smoothly — were largely relegated back to their earlier roles as caregivers, homemakers, or, at best, administrative assistants. However, the disciples of Rosie the Riveter were not content to stay at home for long. In the 1960s and 1970s, as female enrollment in post-secondary education increased steadily, a new generation of women entered the workforce, this time intent on cultivating careers instead of just having jobs. Progress was incremental. An overwhelming culture of male chauvinism and the very real fact that many companies were run by ‘old boy networks’ were still major obstacles.
The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s put some significant cracks in the glass ceiling, but the wage gap between men and women remained (as it still does), and remnants of twentieth century gender biases lingered. In recent years, some forward movement has been made on the issue of equal pay for equal work and there has been a significant uptick in the number of women hired in managerial and executive capacities, but the struggle for female empowerment in the workplace is far from over. More and more, though, it seems that companies of all sorts genuinely want to reform and shed old legacies of sexism. So, how best to accomplish this? How can businesses intent on enlightenment best cultivate a culture of gender equality?
Currently a mentor in the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs Program, Tara Haddad, lists some important ways that companies can support and raise up the women in their employment.
Be Mindful of Tokenism
“Even to this day, many companies operate as if simply employing some women and having them around entitles them to declare some sort of moral victory” claims Tara. “This is not the case. By keeping a slew of female employees on the payroll for the express purpose of pointing to them for the sake of public relations is an empty gesture, and, upon any kind of scrutiny, rather transparent.” It is, in fact, tokenism. Tara Haddad states tokenism is a cynical and condescending practice. To forward the cause of female empowerment in the workplace, it is of critical importance to not only hire women, but also to listen to their ideas, value their contributions to the organization, and give them credit when it is due.
Prime the Corporate Pipeline
There is no more important concept to the cause of female empowerment in the workplace than priming the corporate pipeline. The corporate pipeline is a slang term for a company’s potential talent pool of entry level staff, everyday workers, and middle management. It’s where employees are meant to prove themselves. It’s also where employees are evaluated by executives and, should they show themselves worthy, groomed for higher positions. In many respects, the corporate pipeline can be likened to the different levels of a professional sports team. In furtherance of this analogy, the more women that play ‘double-A’ ball today, the more that will graduate to ‘triple-A’ tomorrow, and ultimately, the more that will make it all the way to the major leagues. Tara Haddad says that priming the pipeline with capable women hired straight out of college or university is the single most effective way to ensure a wealth of female talent at every level of a company for generations to come.
Do Business With Female-Owned Companies
Somewhat peripherally, but no less importantly, corporations seeking to genuinely support and raise up women can do so by cultivating business relationships with female-owned companies. In the past twenty years, Tara Haddad states a record number of startups have been founded by female entrepreneurs. By engaging the services of these vendors, consulting firms, or IT agencies, already established companies can help ensure their financial independence. Once enough female-owned and operated companies become profitable and entrenched in the marketplace, it is only a matter of time before they create their own unique workplace culture in which to thrive. Such cultures, emanating from successful businesses, are likely to spread, bolstering female empowerment throughout entire industries.
According to Tara Haddad, “The quest for female empowerment in the workplace is a long-term project. It began long ago and will not be finished anytime soon. It is, however, important to keep pushing the cause forward, little by little, making incremental progress as the decades pass. At this stage in history, it is not only a question of individuals who need to try to make a difference, but entire organizations. Any company wishing to do its part for the cause would do well to be mindful of tokenism, prime the corporate pipeline with capable women, and do business with female-owned companies.”