According a 2018 McKinsey report, advancing women’s equality in Asia Pacific countries could add $4.5 trillion annually to the region’s GDP— a 12% increase. Though the benefits of gender equality across all regions are obvious, and don’t need a justification, the numbers don’t hurt. When the situation improves for women in the Asia Pacific region, everyone benefits.
At WERKIN, we can’t help but ask ourselves “What can companies and organisations do to create more inclusive workplaces for not only women, but all employees?” Here are five ideas:
1. work/life balance
This sounds cliché, because it is. But it’s actually one of the most important factors for millennial employees – according to a Deloitte 2019 study, they are more willing to participate in the “gig economy” rather than seek potentially more stable and higher-paying full-time jobs because they value a work/life balance. But it is essential to do more than just turn off the lights and encourage people to leave at 6:00pm (though that’s a great start!).
Women, who typically do four times the amount of unpaid care work that men do, have to feel supported and encouraged to stay in employment regardless of care responsibilities. Systemic changes, such as affordable childcare, could be led by the state, but business has a role to play as well:
Introducing parental leave for both parents and encouraging fathers to take advantage of this policy
Providing a more friendly environment for pregnant women and new mothers: from infrastructure (parking spaces, new mothers rooms, changing tables) to more flexible working schedules and day care for children in the workplace
2. Career progression for women
Simply put, we need to put women in the positions of power because especially in the Asia Pacific region, there are few at the top. Data from the McKinsey report shows in 2016, women made up only 13% in companies’ boards, compared to 22% in the US or 27% in Canada. What would put women in leadership roles? First of all, diversity and inclusion policies must be a top priority, not only for HR teams, but for the company as a whole. But that’s not all:
All employees – regardless of their position within the company – should be encouraged to personally commit to more equal and inclusive work environments, e.g. by offering help and moral support to those returning from parental leave
Training and mentorship are invaluable for employers to share lessons learned and for women to network between each other and learn new skills. At WERKIN, facilitating mentorship programmes across women’s professional networks for years, we have seen the power of mentorship as a path towards leadership positions
3. Technology CAN SUPPorT WORK/LIFE Balance (when done right!)
Digital technology allows us to streamline personal and family care responsibilities (such as buying groceries or paying bills), but it also allows for more flexibility between work and family obligations. Working from home can be a lifesaver, when you have a 5-year-old who is sick or an elder parent who needs care. In terms of making things more equal between men and women, technology has its achievements – online banking has made financial services less gender-oriented, cooking apps divested men of the “I-just-don’t-know-how excuse”, and employee engagement software allows for everyone to be equally involved in company culture. Technology supports cultural change at home and in the workplace.
4. Stronger together
Lasting change of organisational culture takes time – but it does not mean employers shouldn’t try to create a more inclusive environments. Official policies are a good start, but consistent actions through an individual sense of responsibility throughout the whole company structure is vital. A series of workshops and events promoted or hosted by a senior employer will send a clear and distinct message to all the workers that the company takes the matter of equality seriously and has a real plan.
Collaborate, network and mingle! It is difficult to break the circle of inequality, discrimination and stiff hierarchies in general, but it is certainly impossible if you’re alone. That’s exactly the mission behind WERKIN – to connect people with similar experiences to build sustainable mentoring relationships.