Great workplaces for women are more welcoming

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The glass ceiling actually may be made of Teflon at great workplaces for women. Companies where women are thriving also tend to be hospitable for all employees, suggests a recent ranking of the nation’s best workplaces for women by Great Place to Work and Fortune. But experts caution that the path to equality appears to be a meandering one.

With 95% of all employees at the best workplaces for women enjoying a friendly environment and 93% believing customers would describe their services as excellent, “we discovered that equitable employers are also welcoming places to do business,” say Kim Peters, EVP of certification and partnerships at GPTW.

Experiences among women and men were consistent based on surveys of more than 400,000 U.S. employees at GPTW-certified organizations where women rated their organizations in more than 50 areas, including respect, fairness, management and camaraderie. They also “correlated strongly with smaller gaps among other demographic groups that frequently report less-positive experiences than their colleagues,” the report notes, referencing skin color, sexual identity, youth and lower economic status.

The best employers are defined as those for whom all employees consistently experience a great place to work, regardless of who they are or what they do in the company. Key elements include working for trustworthy and credible leaders who treat people fairly and with respect, taking pride in being part of their organization, and genuinely enjoying their colleagues. GPTW also produces rankings based on diversity and the treatment of millennials, as well as a general category for which it is best known.

“We also discovered that involvement inspires loyalty,” Peters adds. “Women that tell us they are treated as full members of the team, regardless of what level they are in the organization, are five times more likely to plan a long-term future at their organizations. Women who say that they made a difference at their organizations are 27 times more likely to describe their companies as great places to work.”

Asked if corporate America is at a point where great workplace strategies can simply be smart or intuitive for everyone versus customized to gender or other demographic factors, Peters believes further progress is necessary.

“Unfortunately, women aren’t thriving everywhere yet,” she says. “Even though we’re able to produce a list of 100 best places for women, there are many organizations where women are not having an equal level of experience, and they’re not all having a great place to work.”

The Society for Human Resource Management’s National Study of Employers found that employers with the most family-friendly policies tend to have more women in higher positions. “Do companies that offer better work-life support do so because they have more women in leadership positions, or do the kinds of companies that offer these policies also tend to promote women?” asked Ellen Galinsky, a senior research adviser for SHRM who co-founded the Families and Work Institute.

Fewer resources
However, there’s a troubling trend afoot. “We find that fewer companies are actually being supportive of women’s initiatives,” she says. “Career counseling for women declined from 22% in 2005 to 15% of employers in 2016. People are doing training for generational issues and age diversity, but there are fewer supports for women’s advancement.”

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In terms of employee benefit offerings, Peters says the best workplaces are able to uniquely shape them to reflect the company’s purpose, mission and core values. As such, she sees a strategic opportunity for benefit brokers and advisers “to help coach clients that it isn’t necessarily about just offering something, but bringing it in and making it their own.”

Any such consultations would need to start with assessing an employer’s biggest struggles, complaints and other critical issues, according to Tanya Boyd, president and CEO of Tanya Boyd & Associates, LLC who was chosen among EBA’s Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising in 2017. The aim is to provide a solution, she says, adding that “a happy work environment is a more productive work environment.”

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