Around the world, a growing number of organisations are starting to realise that it is a massive loss to lose women in the 30s and 40s – women who opt out of the rat race in order to focus attention on family issues, including child care and ageing parents (see previous post on the Sandwich generation). To cater for some of the demands on these multi-tasking women’s time, some companies are starting to become more flexible about work hours, provide more services to employees and become more friendly to “personal” issues that need resolving.
These companies are often celebrated as “women friendly”, and there are many lists emerging now of women-friendly companies. Governments and non-profits are putting energy into raising awareness of these issues (e.g. EOWA in Australia – Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency).
The Age in Australia, reports today that EOWA is having the desired effect, with more and more female (family) friendly companies emerging – read the report here.

Some of the things these companies do include:

  • Guaranteeing equal pay for equal play
  • Providing flexible working hours
  • Creating multiple flexible working conditions (e.g. part-time, shared jobs, half-time, shifts, split shifts, compressed working weeks, contract work, etc)
  • Allowing “time outs” with designated re-entry points
  • Maintaining contact with people on “time out” – including ongoing training, social interaction and company updates
  • Setting specific representation targets for all levels of management
  • Adjusting the environment to a more collaborative style – being self-aware enough to recognise different approaches, and embrace diversity
  • Coaching of leaders on diversity awareness
  • Putting diversity and female advancement as key results areas in manager’s job descriptions
  • Putting women at the top

Governments can also help by creating tax incentives, such as tax breaks for child care. Bloomberg reported just yesterday that many Australian and New Zealand companies are putting pressure on their governments to increase incentives that will assist some of the estimated 250,000 women who want to come back to work but cannot because of childcare commitments. Read the report here.
For another insight, check out Women Friendly Companies: What Works, What Doesn’t & Why, by Barbara Annis, on the Women in Technology website.
One of the most important points to make here is that the things you need to do to become female friendly will also be great for men as well – especially for fathers. This is therefore not just about pandering to the “weaker sex” (ugh!), but rather about creating a kinder, friendlier, more holistic workplace that will get more out of all your employees.

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