Historically, women in the workplace have been met with the proverbial glass ceiling, walls and other such barriers. Additionally, the female employee population has also experienced challenges earning equal pay for completing relatively similar tasks. While previously passed legislation has eliminated much of this discrimination, there continues to be lingering effects of past beliefs and practices. Research indicates there continue to be challenges with regard to leadership opportunities, promotions as well as compensation and benefits.

However, this is not the case in all organizations. Many companies today are clearly on board with providing fair and equal treatment regardless of gender. Many organizations today have female employees leading major projects, entire departments as well as serving in executive positions. Therefore, the question to be asked today is—what is your organization doing to ensure these valuable employees are receiving not only the opportunities for advancement and equal pay but also the support they need? Assuming your organization is one in which the culture is defined by the care and concern demonstrated to its employees, there are several areas to be addressed to improve the work experience for the women in your workplace.

It is first necessary to identify what the problem(s) may be so that a solution can be developed and implemented. One issue described by a female professional relatively new to the professional workforce is the challenge to be everything for everyone and to do so with excellence. We hear of burnout from those who have been in the workforce for many years, but what about the individual, who has recently completed her MBA, is serving the organization 60+ hours per week and is newly married or expecting a child? What are the resources or tangible evidence that our organizations can provide to ensure this passionate professional has the best chance for success? Further, what is the organization doing to increase the likelihood of retaining this valuable employee?

It is recommended that each of these employees be provided a coach and/or mentor who has the knowledge and experience to provide appropriate information and share skills or wisdom. The purpose for this relationship is multi-fold. First and foremost is to ensure the female employee has the job knowledge to be successful in her current position and is also on track to progress in her career if that is desired. In addition to job engagement, ensure the career goals are known, understood and supported by management. This is imperative to providing the necessary support to these phenomenal employees. Identifying any potential barriers to reaching these goals is crucial. As barriers are identified, the mentor may be able to guide the employee as to how to best navigate the landscape in the organization to ensure she is not overlooked for an opportunity.

While all of the above are critical to the successful mentoring relationship one area not always addressed as a workplace need is that of setting boundaries and the positive impact of the word “no.” Too often eager employees say “yes” to all requests to work on another project, resulting in less than quality work due to the overextended commitments. The mentor can assist the employee with identifying when and how to say “no” to certain opportunities so the employee is able to focus time and attention on tasks that will best help her achieve long term goals.

Further, organizations must be cognizant of the needs of the female workforce to accomplish work-life balance while continuing to serve with excellence. With the increase in technology, the methods of communication have grown, making it difficult for individuals to establish healthy boundaries. The employee who desires to grow in the organization finds it difficult to identify when to turn off the technology and establish work-life balance. Boundaries are necessary for the new professional to establish. In doing so she is able to protect her time more effectively and thereby give improved effort to those work tasks and life situations deemed most important. The organization should encourage the employee to establish a work-life balance knowing the return on this investment is beneficial to both parties.

Finally, a review of the benefits offered that provide sufficient time off without unnecessary hurdles to jump through, effective education and certification benefits, and health and wellness programs will all aid in the employee experiencing job satisfaction and thereby commitment to our organizations.

As can be seen, most of the recommendations are relatively easy to implement and the time, effort, energy and financial resources expended are sure to reap fabulous results—a committed employee who desires to serve your organization with excellence!

By Colleen McLaughlin