International Women's Day: Making Work Better for the Women of the World

March 6, 2020 Niamh Graham

6-minute read

For Women sign

I have high hopes for the future of women in the workplace. I am a working mother and an executive here at Workhuman®, and International Women’s Day is an important day – one we should celebrate and recognize as a way to highlight how women are making advancements, but also where we still have more work to do in terms of creating equal workplaces for all.

When I think about my children growing up – I have a 13-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son – I also consider my hopes and dreams for them. I spend a lot of time at work and travel a lot, but I also want to be a great mom and great role model inside and outside of work. We all make choices in life. My choices have been to work hard, dedicate myself, focus, and know how to be in tune and connected with people – to make a difference and create a deep sense of purpose and belonging. That's certainly been my experience and my journey – ultimately my life’s work – and it’s important to me to set the right tone for my children so they grow up to be respectful people who work hard, are true to themselves, and are inspired to do something that makes them happy.

One thing that makes me happy in my role as VP of global HR is seeing our employees happy. I’m proud of how I’ve contributed to creating an exceptional employee experience here. In fact, Workhuman has just been named one of the Best Workplaces for Women by the Great Place to Work Institute in Ireland for creating a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment for women. I want to provide this goodness not just for my children, or my team, or my workplace, but also for other global organizations too. After all, we are changing the world with gratitude.

How inequality affects the workplace

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, #EachforEqual, really resonates with me. In our recent international report, “The Future of Work is Human,” our research team discovered that 26% of employees have felt discriminated against over the course of their careers – including one-third of high-performing women. The study also found men are 2x as likely to be in a senior management or executive role, and more than half of women in middle and front-line management positions say a manager has taken credit for their work.

These are not pleasant statistics. Inequality shows itself in compensation, development, and management practices, and the people affected cannot do their best work. Fairness, consistency, and respect for all have always been a focus for Workhuman, and we've grown the organization with that mindset and cultural approach. We always strive to be the best we can be, to put our people first with a sense of purpose, belonging, and inclusion. And now our product helps enable not only us, but millions of people around the world, to view recognition as the glue between diversity and inclusion.

That same report tells us that people who come to work with a shared sense of purpose and meaning are 4x as likely to love their jobs – and employees who love their jobs rise to the challenge.

Tips for supporting women in the future of work

This International Women’s Day is an opportunity for all of us to recognize that we have shared ownership in driving global gender parity. I know not every HR professional is within a company that supports their goals of equality, and I can imagine how difficult a position that must be. For them, and for everyone, I suggest the following:

  • Use the data. Relate back to the research to understand why changes are essential or necessary, whether from a people perspective or a cultural perspective. This helps create clarity. Then add your own insights. Be resilient, patient, and strategic with this information as you plan your next steps.
  • Live your values – personally and professionally. Collaboration is important if you want to spark positive change. Foster human connection by being authentic, true, and honest. Behave and communicate authentically and kindly, and position your business cases that way too, and you will be able to break through difficult situations and long-held beliefs.
  • Aim for accessibility. This is not discussed as frequently as it should be. At Workhuman we recently had our first Usability Day, where employees could experience what it is like to have visual or other physical impairments. It was a fantastic experience and a forward-looking approach, and it gives me a huge sense of pride and belonging to work in an organization that thinks like that, that has creative and innovative people who not only set us apart from other employers, but also make us more inclusive and more caring.
  • Support internal ERGs and the surrounding community. We have employee resource groups such as the Workhuman Women's Network, of which I'm an executive sponsor, where women can support each other and learn from thought leaders (like Nataly Kogan). We also have an LGBTQ+ group and a working-parents group to give more people access to true belonging beyond their work interactions. Executive support is so important for these groups, in terms of giving time, clearing budget, and instilling empowerment. We're also members of STEM associations and organizations like WITS Ireland, and Jonathan Hyland, our CTO, is on the board of Technology Ireland. We support Women ReBOOT and Teen-Turn. We are proud to make a difference in our communities in Ireland and America and have asked our executives to be spokespeople and lead by example to support and shine a light on these important initiatives. Respect for all is a key value and behavior that we live by.
  • Work more human. Intuitively, everyone knows what this means. As a recent example, a team member wanted to take a swim class with her toddler at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. She asked if she could come in a bit later and stay a bit later so she could go and be present for this important step in her child’s development. I said, “Absolutely, of course you can.” Some people have other demands – maybe they're caring for an elderly or sick family member, or maybe they have an illness themselves and need time for medical care. Be mindful – as a mother, a female leader, an executive representative of your company, or whatever applies to you – of your influence and the things you can do to make a difference to individual people.

Those are just some examples. As I’ve been thinking about International Women’s Day over the last couple of weeks, it struck me – I have a lot of experience, but not all the answers. How can we be more innovative and what more could we be doing? How else can we be more forward-thinking in relation to women in our workplace and in the world? What more can we do as a company and as a culture to make a difference and open our minds and hearts to people and their experiences? That’s the lens I’ll be looking through today and well into the future as we continue to help build more positive and inclusive workplaces for everyone.

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About the Author

Niamh Graham

Niamh is vice president, global HR at Workhuman.

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