Empowering women with a view to business growth

As Jacinta Quah explains, empowering women isn't just about gender equality - it's also good for the business.
By: | October 18, 2018


About the Author
Jacinta Quah is the founder and CEO of JQ Coaching & Consulting. She has more than 20 years experience in the tech space, particularly, having previously worked at Microsoft.

We are moving towards a diverse business environment that is willing to accommodate everyone regardless of gender, culture, ethnicity and even associated social stereotypes.

Thanks to the gradual change in the corporate culture, more women are now pursuing their desired careers. However, their employers do not necessarily empower them in a way that is fair to them and the business.

There are three significant barriers that limit the career progression of women:

  • Male-dominated corporate culture
  • Stereotyping gender roles
  • Bias in recruitment and promotion

A McKinsey study from 2011, “Changing Companies’ mind about Women,” highlighted that the unconscious bias in a manager’s mindset dramatically reduces the chances of women getting promoted to an executive role.

So, even if a company recruits an equal ratio of men and women in their workforce, women are less likely to enjoy a smooth career progression.


HR’s role

Recruiting women is one thing. But the real challenge lies in retaining that talent in long-term and ensuring that your female employees get the motivation boost to reach their best potential.

Studies show that women are more collaborative and nurturing in the workplace. However, “hidden” discrimination usually leads to the misinterpretation of their confidence and work ethics.

For instance, a woman’s outspoken personality is frequently perceived as ruthlessness – a characteristic not generally applied to men who speak up.

Here are some ways that HR can help to overcome such unconscious bias:

Coach employees to discover the unconscious bias. A good example is the use of masculine words in communication when the opposite could be applicable as well. Keeping business communication gender neutral where possible can be a good starting point – actionable advice for all businesspeople (not just businessmen!).

Set and communicate performance evaluation criteria upfront – including both quantitative measures and qualitative impact, so as to keep the process unbiased.  Everyone must be assessed against the same standards whether it is about promotion case, salary raise or an annual audit.

Allow flexible work hours for working parents, so they do not have to compromise between family and career. Some companies, understandably, cannot operate well with part-time employees. However, compare the risk factor between losing the best talent entirely and getting it involved on a part-time or freelance basis.

Consider allowing children to accompany their parents at work for a few hours.

Keep a quota for women in major projects to work as the forefront representatives of the company. This will empower them to lead with their expertise and appreciate the areas they must improve.