Managing Your Business
4 Signs of Great Workplaces for Women (and 4 Red Flags to Watch For)
There’s recently been a significant emphasis on ensuring a healthy work-life balance. While that balance is essential to a functioning business, providing a positive environment for everyone at work, especially women, is also vital.
Finding the right fit for you and your skills in the business space can be daunting. In honor of Working Women’s Day, we gathered four prime indicators of companies that uphold an inclusive work environment for women and four red flags signaling which ones to stay away from.
Red Flag: Lack of Women in Leadership
From team leaders to CEOs, anyone should be able to climb the leadership ladder if they have the needed skills and experience. But, even though women account for over half of the U.S. workforce, women only hold 35% of senior leadership positions compared to the 65% held by men.
If a company lacks women in leadership or has a low percentage of female employees, that’s a major red flag that the organization isn’t supportive of women. The problem could be that they don’t hire many women or offer few career growth opportunities to their female employees.
Regardless of industry, leadership positions should be diverse across the board so there are a variety of opinions present. Job sites like LinkedIn often provide an inside view of who works at a company, including those in leadership. If few women are at the big table, it’s unlikely the business will run a fair and inclusive workplace.
Whether you’re job hunting, in your final interviews, or have already accepted a position at a new company, you might be curious about who you’d be reporting to. A company with no obvious evidence on popular job sites like LinkedIn or a repetitive fluff answer on professional development opportunities might have a bigger problem.
Green Flag: Career Advancement Opportunities
Most employees want to land a job that offers the ability to grow with the company. It’s no surprise that we tend to be happier in our careers when hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Everyone wants raises, promotions, and professional development opportunities.
While you can usually see who holds company leadership positions on LinkedIn, it might be hard to get an inside view of how a company promotes people without reaching out. If you’re interested in a new company, ask the recruiter about the advancement path for the position and how long it typically takes to receive a promotion. If you want to take it even further, ask if they promote internal hires, as this is a clear indicator that they value the career progression of their employees.
Women in leadership positions can also serve as a green light that a company offers career growth opportunities. This shows that the workplace promotes active leadership initiatives and that there are high-placed female employees who can help advocate for women-led teams.
Red Flag: Missing Accommodations
It’s essential to work in a supportive atmosphere, and this support should be exemplified in company policies. From PTO to bereavement leave, all companies need to be willing to care for and view their employees as people, not workers, through these policies.
Many women are interested to hear about maternity leave, or lack thereof, when pursuing a new job. At the minimum, maternity leave should be offered for a sufficient amount of time and include flexible options. If it’s an in-office position, additional accommodations should be made available, such as a designated pumping room for new mothers.
Companies with these types of accommodations are often ready to support their female employees for the long term. On the other hand, a company that chooses against adopting these policies or gets very nit-picky in the fine print is only shining a light on future issues.
Green Flag: Flexible Policies
It’s no secret that women are more likely to drop out of the workforce because of family obligations, such as caregiving tasks for their children or older parents. Even though this only follows the “expectation” that women should take a caregiver role, it’s still the reality for many working women.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, 1.1 million women left the workforce between February 2020 and January 2022. These numbers follow the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused caregiving responsibilities to spike amid school and childcare disruptions.
Flexible work policies are more critical now than ever, especially for female workers. Companies that adopt flexible working arrangements to retain their female employees show their support for all lifestyles, regardless of gender.
Offerings like overtime, remote work, extended PTO, and flextime schedules are becoming increasingly common for many U.S. businesses. Check a company’s policies to see if they fit your needs, and ask to speak to current employees to see if the words on paper are actually practiced in day-to-day life.
Red Flag: Hesitation to Make Your Voice Heard
An essential part of working as a team is sharing ideas, listening, and building off one another to reach your end goal. In a workplace setting, especially in a male-dominated profession, women might feel hesitant to share ideas out of fear of not being taken seriously or overlooked by male colleagues.
In a report by Catalyst, 45% of women in business find it challenging to speak up in virtual meetings. A higher percentage of women than men have felt “ignored or overlooked” by co-workers during company video calls in this survey of 1,100 adults in the workplace.
It’s essential to observe processes in a workplace, including virtual or in-person meetings, means of communication, and an arena where employees are to offer up their opinions and thoughts. Take a deeper look to see if there’s an equal chance for everyone to contribute their knowledge.
If there are any feelings of hesitation or holding back ideas, take a step back and see what parts of the current process could make you feel that way. Maybe your co-workers aren’t actively listening, or some employees have hostile reactions when others share ideas. No matter the reason, remember that you deserve to contribute just as much as the person next to you.
Green Flag: Celebration of Collaboration
Collaboration from different perspectives leads to successful outcomes. A variety of backgrounds and mindsets reach farther than one person’s ideas ever could.
If a company goes out of its way to ensure women’s voices are heard in all areas, you can tell they understand the expertise and creativity you can bring to the table. Teams should include all relevant members and their unique ideas when working on a project, including giving credit where it’s due to female employees.
You’ll be able to feel worlds of difference in a workplace that ensures everyone feels heard in their contributions. Co-workers can build each other up by vocalizing support for ideas or creating a system where everyone gets a chance to speak.
Many companies are starting to step up to the plate to support women and their collaboration of ideas through advancement opportunities, awards, and mentorships.
Red Flag: Lack of Diversity
A wide variety of people, skills, and backgrounds is essential for any workplace. While basic gender diversity is critical, it’s also important to remember that there’s not only one acceptable mold for women. If a workplace only seems to value one “type” of woman (usually a straight, cis, conventionally attractive, white woman), you can expect lots of pressure to conform to standards that should have nothing to do with your work.
A 2021 report by McKinsey & Company found that women of color significantly lacked representation in corporate positions. It’s easy for companies to say they support WOC with words, but they must take action to change everyday barriers such as microaggressions and harmful stereotypes.
Women who are part of the LGBTQ+ community also lack inclusivity, especially when it comes to transgender women. Another report by McKinsey & Company states that “more than half of transgender employees say they are not comfortable being out at work,” and they find it more challenging to understand workplace culture.
A workplace that doesn’t provide equal opportunities for professional development or company-wide education on overcoming workplace prejudice is unlikely to take any of its employee’s experiences seriously.
Green Flag: Inclusivity of All Women
Looking at the team around you and seeing women from all backgrounds come together to achieve a common goal proves a company’s dedication to inclusive work. It gives you as an employee a valuable opportunity to learn an array of skills from all kinds of work experiences, upbringings, and lifestyles.
A valuable characteristic of a workplace is leadership’s ability to listen actively and have conversations with their employees. Even when difficult conversations arise, it’s essential to ensure everyone’s experiences are validated. A company’s HR team should know how to navigate these situations and respond to employee concerns.
It’s essential for all employees to uplift voices through outward credit and affirmation for work successes. This can be seen publicly on a company’s social media through employee spotlights or internally through the standard means of team communication. Employee websites like Glassdoor also provide reviews from past employees for an inside perspective on a company’s culture.
Find the Culture That’s Right for You
While more companies are boasting a supportive and inclusive work environment, barriers are still in the way for women who want to break the glass ceiling. From the everlasting gender pay gap to constant sexual harassment to overarching biases and inequality, women continue to face some major problems in the workplace, despite advances made over the last few decades.
As you search for a new job or start climbing the corporate ladder at your existing one, remember to focus on what you want out of a workplace culture. If you feel supported by the company, are offered growth opportunities, and have a positive relationship with colleagues, then it may be the perfect culture for you.
If your workplace has a few too many red flags, you might be looking to go in a new direction. Keep these green flags in mind as you scope out a new company that upholds your values, or check out some of our other articles for helpful tips on starting your own:
- 5 Tips on How to Be a Successful Female Entrepreneur
- 10 Legendary Businesswomen Who Made American History
- Celebrating Business Women’s Week
- How to Show Your Support for Women-Owned Small Businesses
Catherine Cohen, Associate Copywriter, Swyft Filings
Alexis Konovodoff, Associate Copywriter, Swyft Filings