Gender inequality in the workplace is no secret. But we’re hoping 2019 brings about progress for women at work. (We’ll be contributing!) Here’s what women in business can expect to see as the year unfolds:
Improved Parental Leave Policies
Companies like Adobe, Spotify and Twitter are leading the way in offering extended paid parental leave benefits. And this trend is sure to continue in 2019. It not only makes companies more attractive to candidates, but it increases the retention of top talent. Employees are more likely to return to work if they’ve been able to take adequate time to adjust to their new family situation. An increase in flexible working options after paid parental leave also contributes to lower turnover rates.
While studies have shown women are still the primary caregiver for children, despite working more than ever, parental leave policies should be gender-neutral. The definition of family has evolved – and companies are starting to be cognizant of it. In 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Estee Lauder for parental leave policies that discriminated against men. The skin care company settled the suit for $1.1 million to a class of dads. Estee Lauder originally offered six weeks of paid parental leave to women for child bonding but only offered men two weeks; moms also received flexible return-to-work options that dads were not eligible for. According to a Business Insider article, the company now offers 20 weeks of paid leave, $10,000 toward adoption and a back-to-work transition program – regardless of sex, gender and sexual orientation.
Increased Sexual Harassment Awareness
In a Pew Research study conducted before the public outcry from #MeToo, almost half of women who say their workplace is mostly male reported sexual harassment being a problem. In a workplace with mostly female employees, 32 percent of women reported the same. More women have come out to report sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement, so these numbers may be higher today. The media attention on sexual harassment has led employers to address the issue head-on in the workplace.
The EEOC points out that “prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace,” therefore some companies are upping their sexual harassment training. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management early last year, 32 percent of its members said their organizations have made changes to sexual harassment prevention training in the last year. The most popular changes were the addition of a workplace-civility component, customized training and training with onboarding for all workers. An additional 22 percent planned to make changes within the next year.
Improved Diversity Initiatives
If you’re a regular Starbucks patron (and even if you’re not), you probably recall the coffee giant shutting its doors for a company-wide racial bias training for a half-day last May. Diversity initiatives will continue to encompass gender, not only race, and women will take notice.
According to a “Women in the Workplace 2018” study, progress on gender diversity issues has stalled. Men are still more likely to be hired into manager-level roles and they are far more likely to be promoted into them: For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 79 women are promoted to manager. Ideas from CIO’s “Women in Tech: How to Increase Gender Diversity,” include addressing unconscious bias, involve more women in the hiring process and expand flexible work-life policies.