What one crucial step can companies or managers take to support the advancement of women in the workplace?

What one crucial step can companies or managers take to support the advancement or women in the workplace?


In the tenth episode of Perspectives, we’re celebrating and honouring International Women’s Day on March 8th. We ask Women in Research and the Women who have taken part in past episodes to talk about key changes and commitments that are needed to drive real change for Women.

Welcome to the Woman In Research conversation!

Hosted by Kristin Luck and in partnership with WIRe and MRS Society.

If you’re not familiar with Wire, our global community of over seven thousand women and over a thousand male advocates are on a mission to advance the contribution and voice of women in the industry. Study after study has shown the positive impact of diversity on corporate performance and innovation, although I typically shy away from only highlighting female perspectives, today March 8th, we’re going to do just that in honor of International Women’s Day. If you’re struggling as a company or a manager to understand how to effectively move the needle on diversity and support the advancement of women in the workplace, look no further. Today women around the world from Dubai, Sydney, Amsterdam, Paris, Los Angeles, are going to offer their thoughts on steps you can take to make 2018 the year we stop dreaming about diversity and we start actually do it, so enjoy. – @kristinluck

Written Commentary 

Annie Pettit – Market Research Methodologist, AnniePettit@gmail.com, read more on her blog.

It’s hard to identify one most important step because there are so many small and big things people and companies can do. I’ll frame it like this. Companies can take a good, hard, honest look at the efforts they’ve made thus far and course correct.

  • What percentage of your senior leadership team is women? Does your senior team suffer from token womanism? It’s frustrating to research a potential client or employer only to find the senior team is ten men and one woman. (Let’s not even go so far as to consider the diversity of ethnicity, disability, etc.) If your company truly values diversity, it’s impossible for the demographics of the senior team to not demonstrate it. And don’t course correct by adding a VP of Diversity. Course correct by hiring an expert in your industry/business, e.g., VP of Data/IT/Research/CustomerExperience.
  • What percentage of promotions with senior leadership potential has been offered to women? We know that women are less likely to ask for promotions and a raise, so pay attention to whether you’re offering these opportunities to people who are asking (overtly or covertly) versus people who have quietly contributed to the bottom line without beating their chest and proclaiming how great they are.
  • What percentage of speakers sent by your company to conferences last year were women, and did you send the same woman every time? You might notice that the same speakers appear at conferences over and over again. Well, maybe it’s time to divide up the 25 speaking slots among ten people, even better among five women and five men who’ve never taken the stage before. In my work with new speakers, I’ve yet to see a single new speaker fail miserably on stage. In fact, the fast majority are AS GOOD AS other speakers. I kid you not. Sure, some show their nerves, but the audience cares more about the content than the nerves. I guarantee you’ve got at least one diamond in the rough, probably several. Take the risk, earn the reward.
  • Are you an encourager, nudger, promoter, motivator, an ally? Do you regularly (kindly and respectfully) push and prod to help the quiet people show their expertise? Sometimes, asking someone to submit a conference proposal will turn into a yes on the fifth or tenth ask. Keep on asking. Keep on making sure they know they DO have the expertise and they CAN succeed as a speaker/leader/manager, or whatever the seemingly scary task is.

Debbie Bray – Director of Hook Research, read more on her blog.

Women are a vital, powerful part of any workforce and bring a whole host of skills to research companies such as Hook: unique perspectives on consumer behaviours; different emotional registers; and enhanced organisational skills developed through the delicate balance of child rearing and job pressures (to name just a few).

But companies sometimes need to be willing to accommodate the unique needs of women as well – particularly those who want to grow their careers while simultaneously raising a family. And one of the best ways that companies can do this is by being more flexible.

One of our big mantras at Hook is ‘flexibility aids productivity’.

We treat our employees as grown-ups who are more than capable of meeting deadlines (whether they’re in or out of the office) and they have always risen to the challenge.

The world is changing and peoples’ lives no longer fit the traditional working hours of companies. Offices need to adapt to this.

Being visible doesn’t mean being physically present in an office – we are living in a much more connected age where people can Skype, facetime, and call into meetings. Similarly, working from home on certain days has never been easier – video conferencing, email, and shared cloud drives have made it so much easier to collaborate with colleagues when they’re out and about.

So this year, in celebration of International Women’s Day, my challenge to companies across the research industry and beyond is to figure out how to be more flexible when accommodating the needs of the women in their workforce. Who knows? You might just find that you’re more productive as a result!

Excerpts from the vlog

I don’t like the idea of setting rules and quotas and it’s not about doing that it’s about having the best person for the role. But it’s ensuring that when you’re considering candidates representative roles you do have a diverse range of candidates and women are absent you need to be at that table and considered and which is not always the case. Second thing, I would say is listen to the women within your organisation listen to their needs their coaching and their mental needs are often very different from men and women often need the encouragement and the confidence to actually put themselves out there and to apply for more senior roles and to apply for more senior positions. – @earle_babita

I think the one most important step companies and managers can take to support the advancement of women in the workplace is to treat them equally. – @keenasmustard

it’s really about an ability for an organisation to think about “How do you create those strategies? “, to bring diversity of thinking in, whether that be gender, sexuality, race, etc, or religion. So, that for me, is one strategy that an organisation really needs to work on, and we can ensure that women rise to the top. – Joanna Derry

Most important things that I’ve been able to say really have made a difference is creating flexibility, and that’s like teaching flexibility to everybody, to be able to recognise that when you’re a working woman. Especially if you’re dealing with family, but also to a working father, that there has to be flexibility in how you’re going to manage your schedules, how you’re gonna manage your projects and being able to teach planning and flexibility. And I mentioned men in this as well, because fathers need to be available too to take the children to hospital if there’s a broken bone or something. – Vanessa Oshima

Getting more heads around the table to reduce the amount of unconscious bias that happens. In this way, more people have a say in the decision-making process. It needs to happen at the point they enter an organisation but importantly as an organisation moves forward with the individuals they have selected giving women that opportunity to step up to different tasks. And the support structure they need to take on new challenges is going to be increasingly important to see them have the skills and the experience to step further into senior management in Businesses. – @erica_dfirst

Let’s say you work on the corporate side and it’s a large company, I would recommend getting together with other people who share your views, and bonding together, creating a pact. My experience shows that large companies, to create change requires a lot of effort and a ton of changemakers working together. And by the way, this group should also include men, because this is a global issue. And if you happen to be on the agency side, or a smaller company, I would recommend taking your bold vision to the top. – @ImagineInsights

The core belief system at the top trickles down throughout the organisation. We must have upper level managers who are thinking about the issues of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and have are implementing processes for hiring, promotions, training etc. with those core beliefs of the quality in mind. – @BaillieForGood

I think that companies can do etc, is to have more women in roles and have women visible in organisation, so if you don’t have women as directors and managing directors and divisional directors in your organisation, find a talent, nurture it, support it, train it and make those women your senior people, because I really strongly believe in the mantra “you cannot be what you cannot see”, so if you don’t have those women in those positions, go and get them. @SineadH

My two cents on how to make this work is to build it in the same way that you build anything into your processes like spelling checking of documents, proofreading of documents. I think to check out the diversity profiles of your staff, and executive leadership team should be built in. It should be something that is a function that has a box that needs to be ticked whereby if that box is not ticked action is taken and that those items are reviewed regularly. Because it’s not just about promoting women, it’s about promoting diversity and getting all of us kind of an equal voice and an equal chance to have a spot at the table. – @mindsparklab

Metrics. This is the single most important thing that you can do for your business to advance women. And the reason I’m saying this is that if you have metrics, you can get insight from those, and from that action will be taken. So the kind of metrics I’m thinking about is obviously the percentage of women on the board or senior managers. Also, it could be from a diverse supplier perspective, and this is something I would particularly push. So you know how much of your costs are going to diverse suppliers, and in particular to certified women-owned businesses because these businesses are most likely to support women in the workplace. – @FionaMESH

On a supplier side of market research, one of the biggest challenges I’ve noticed is that women don’t want to advance because they see the workload and the hours and the inflexibility of the schedule being incompatible with their lives. So what we’ve been doing at our company, and what I suggest every company on the supplier side do, is build in flexibility into the schedule, allow them to set their hours. – @Alter_Agents

If they show the promise, if they do the hard work, our job is to clear the path and let them shine, that’s truly what I believe we can do for women, and if we continue to do that as leaders and managers, we will see more women in senior level positions supporting that trend and supporting other women as they make their path going forward. – @simavasa

Historically speaking, qualitative of research has always been a fairly female dominated side of market research, so I don’t think that we’ve suffered from some of the things that you see in the more math or techy oriented market research companies or businesses. So within my own company, of course, we’re a female owned company and most of our employees are women, so we don’t struggle with this as an issue. I have personally worked for companies that were, where men led my team or the company itself, and we often found ourselves coming up with ideas or coming up with solutions that were ignored until the man in charge were regurgitated them as their own ideas. So I think as a manager or a CEO, it’s really important to give, especially to your female employees. – @Kerryhecht

To support the advancement of women in the workplace is to truly value diversity. The diversity of experience, diversity in thinking, and diversity of career pathways. This will create a pipeline of really good people to pick and choose from in senior management teams and allow you to look around and ensure that there is that fifty-fifty representation of men and women of management and up above. – @Livwithme

The most important step is an attitude change. Now you may think I’m going to talk about lack of flexibility in the workplace and women being overlooked. I’m not. It’s often said that a man will apply for a job if he reckons he can do most of the role requirements whereas a woman will only do so if she thinks she can do it all. Is that fact or folklore? Whatever the case the important thing is that if women hold themselves back through a lack of self-belief or a fear of failure or a fear of taking risks it is women themselves who need to change. Change is hard. It’s a cultural shift. – @HarrisonInsight

If younger women in organisations don’t see women in positions of leadership and at positions of power, I would question how likely they are to be motivated to seek opportunities that would get them into those positions as well and believe that they can do that for themselves too. So I appreciate this is a big challenge for a lot of organisations currently, and especially when particularly the leadership roles are often occupied by males, but I think companies can do more by bringing in external female mentors and putting people in touch with a way such of motivators in this area, and perhaps making text available, show some b.. is a great example, or even perhaps putting people in touch with a wider network beyond this industry. – @WeJoinTheDots

I mean encouraging flexibility in terms of working hours and where the work gets done. I think it’s really important they’re giving up flexibility and treated like grown up, so as long as the work gets done. It shouldn’t matter whether that’s in their own homes, in the office or at times to suit them, I think you need to move away from office traditional working hours that don’t suit people’s lives anymore and embrace the flexibility that is more connected world office hours. – @DebbieBray1

When my children were little, I had the flexibility to work in the office most days, and then actually when it was time to pick the children up from school, to pick them up and then carry on working from home on my laptop. So that was a great way for me to keep advancing my career but having the flexibility also to pick the children which for lots of mothers is important. And for the children’s development too because we’re ensuring their future as well and making them feel part of the family. – @adrubena

It’s very difficult for women coming into an organisation or an industry, particularly one like technology which is still quite male-dominated if they don’t see examples of senior women around the table in that organisation. So making sure that women are well represented at board level, VP level, senior management positions and that these senior women are proactively advocating for, sponsoring, mentoring women within that organisation. I also think flexibility is key. So recognising that the very rigid nine to five office based role can be problematic. Giving people the opportunity to work flexibly, possibly homeworking and letting that be something that is advocated for from the senior level at the organisation. I think for more junior female employees, seeing senior women taking advantage of that flexibility is really important and it’s so important that, that business genuinely is behind those policies, that it supports it for all members of staff and that gives people that flexibility to balance their professional commitments with their personal commitments, and ultimately to excel in both with their business’ support. – @voxpopme

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