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How To Ensure Your Company Is More Female Friendly

October 1, 1995
Today's top women candidates are taking closer looks at potential employers to ensure they have a supportive culture. Don't just assume your company is female friendly—make sure it is. Mary Mattis, vice president of research and advisory services for Catalyst, a New York City-based organization "working with business to effect change for women," offers this advice:

Conduct internal research.
Look at your company. Don't assume the face of your company is a smiley face. See if women plateau at a certain level or whether they tend to be over-represented in some areas and under-represented in others. See if you have women in international assignments.

Gather data.
Get the facts. Look at promotion rates and how long women tend to stay at one level. Look at relative turnover between women and men. If companies don't have those kinds of numbers, they need to start working on them and keeping that data systematically.

Talk to women.
Listen to women. Start an advisory or focus group of women that you meet with on a regular basis. This gives you a better sense for how women are feeling and how they're faring.

Revisit female-focused programs.
There are a lot of companies out there with excellent work-family programs. But they shouldn't assume that the programs will meet the needs of all women. Companies may assume that work-family is a woman's issue, and that if they've dealt with that, they've dealt with women's issues. But there's a whole other side—for instance, what's happening in the company with women's career mobility?

Have a plan.
Companies need to have target goals not just for recruiting women, but for moving them up as well. Until companies start treating this just like any other business issue, for which they state the result they want, measure whether they got it and reward the people who got it for them, they're not going to change organizational behavior.

Personnel Journal, October 1995, Vol. 74, No. 10, p. 74.