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5 Ways HR Can Strengthen Women’s Leadership
 

By Michelle Patterson  5/13/2014

Recently the U.S. Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act for the third time and denied open debate of the bill. With Congressional and presidential approval of this initiative, men and women would have been entitled to equal pay for equal performance in the workplace.

As it stands, it’s going to take more than an act of Congress to make equality in the workplace happen. The challenge is much bigger than pay alone.

The Center for American Progress reported “at the current rate of change, it will take until the year 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.”

This staggering estimate persists despite research from the past two decades that demonstrates undeniable proof that when women thrive, organizations thrive—and nations thrive, too. This research supports the fact that women’s leadership is not just a matter of fairness, but also has the potential to move companies, governments, and societies in new and better directions.

Imagine what would happen if instead of going after 50 percent of the candidates, corporations and organizations tapped into 100 percent of the talent pool available in the marketplace. The loss of opportunity when women continue to be marginalized in today’s corporate environment has a negative impact on our economic landscape.

Further evidence comes from the report Fulfilling the Promise: How More Women on Corporate Boards Would Make America and American Companies More Competitive, from the Center for Economic Development. Which condensed all of its findings into “one fundamental recommendation” that wholeheartedly upholds the truth: Businesses and business leaders must make it a priority to develop the talents and advance the careers of female staff who have been identified as potential leaders.

This means providing such women with the experiences and backgrounds needed to rise to the top, and advocating their promotion to higher levels of responsibility. The development of talent within an organization is critical to long-term competitiveness. Businesses that can provide talented women with developmental opportunities and integrate them into their workforce are much more likely to succeed in competition against those that fail to do so.

Here are five ways HR professionals can help move their companies towards equality for women:

Create equal pay scales for male and female employees as a core value of your company. This means your company is committed to rewarding employees based on performance and not gender. Period.

Create your own policies that support equality in the workplace. For example, consider incorporating flex time in your organization or creating a company day care to accommodate families.

Develop a mentorship or intern program for young women. Research local organizations that help at-risk youth, such as the Job Training Partnership Act programs, the OIC of America, Job Corps and more.

Invest in training programs to help enhance the skills of your employees. Consider requiring leadership training for all team members.

Support women’s initiatives and events. For example, the California Women’s Conference is designed to bring women together to prove that collaboration is the new currency and we really are better together.

With these small steps perhaps women will reach leadership parity with men before 2085.  

Michelle Patterson is president of the California Women’s Conference.

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