Attracting and retaining top talent is already challenging. But it requires extra effort and consideration if you want to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace where women feel safe, valued, and respected.

That’s because many women still experience workplace challenges, including role and pay discrimination, limited mentoring and learning opportunities, harassment and bias, and unaccommodating, ‘one-size-fits-all’ HR policies and employee assistance programmes.

What’s more, women find it more challenging to balance work and life demands, given that they carry more of the domestic responsibility than men, and they're not getting what they need from their employers regarding mental health support and fair treatment.

There’s an opportunity for organisations to close the gaps and create a female-empowering employee experience. This article explores some ways to do that.

How to attract, retain, and empower female talent

To close the gap between what female employees want and what employers provide involves understanding their needs and integrating them into your employee experience framework.

Floatpays’ ‘State of Employee Wellbeing Barometer’ provides insight into how to do this.

Learning and development opportunities are highly valued

In our research, more women than men (44% vs 39%) felt that having learning and development opportunities would improve their experience and wellbeing at work. 

Mentorship and sponsorship are effective ways to help women learn and develop. Leaders who act as mentors to women in an organisation share knowledge and provide guidance, which is important for professional development.

However, professional growth for women also requires sponsorship – where leaders advocate for them. Advocacy can take the form of expanding a woman’s visibility within the organisation or directly involving them in experiences/projects that will provide opportunities for career advancement.

Close the gender pay gap and build financial wellness

Pay equity is arguably the most crucial factor in empowering women.

But South Africa still has a median gender pay gap of between 23% and 35%. Women also have to contend with bearing most of the domestic load – women head 42.1% of all South African households. So not only are women earning less, they carry a great personal financial burden.

Our research revealed that 57% of female respondents (vs 49% of men) rated household expenses as a significant source of financial stress, and 52% rated the cost of food as a financial stress factor (vs 42% for men).

Furthermore, 85% of female respondents said that having employer support in financial wellbeing would change their attitude at work, 84% said it would shift their views on management and leadership, and 86% said it would improve productivity and contribute positively to their physical and mental health. Herein lies the business case to close the gender pay gap – a financially well female workforce can positively impact a business’s bottom line.

Aside from committing to pay equity, here are other ways you can help your female employees to improve their financial wellbeing:

  • Earned Wage Access: Giving employees immediate access to a portion of their earned-but-unpaid wages to cover unplanned expenses or make ends meet before their next payday reduces their need to turn to high-risk, high-interest credit.

  • Savings: 87% of female respondents in our research indicated that being financially prepared for an emergency would be exceptionally useful to them. Giving employees access to an interest-bearing, paycheck-linked savings account – such as the one offered by Floatpays – drives a savings discipline and makes saving for emergencies easier.

  • Financial education: 89% of women said that they want to learn how to manage their money better. They also reported that financial aid and consideration reduced stress and anxiety, ultimately benefiting the employer through increased productivity, fewer mistakes, and higher work quality.

Create a discrimination-free environment

People spend most of their lives at work, and if they can’t be themselves due to fear of being discriminated against, they’ll never be able to perform at their best. Females especially value the freedom to be themselves without fear for their safety and wellbeing.

Here’s how you can create a workplace that encourages a sense of happiness, belonging, safety, and inspiration:

  • Bias awareness training: A person's judgement can be affected by biases they don't even know they have. In the workplace, unconscious bias training aims to make people aware of the harmful unconscious biases they carry and with this awareness, they are better equipped to reduce the bias in their interactions with others. Unconscious bias training plays a significant role in making a business more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

  • Eliminate ‘performance bias’: Establish an evidenced-based process for decision-making in the areas of hiring and promoting, so that these conversations aren’t influenced by ‘performance bias’.

The female employee experience should not start and stop with maternity benefits 

Not all women want or can become mothers, while others may already have children of varying ages.

This is why employers should avoid just focusing the employee experience on maternity benefits and childcare. Instead, it should cater for needs at different life stages and lifestyle preferences.

Gender equity has come a long way, but it’s still not where it needs to be. Employers can do a lot more to make the workplace more appealing and comfortable for their female talent and in so doing, reap the benefits of gender diversity, equity and inclusion in their organisations!