How Men Can be Allies to Women in the Workplace

November 23, 2020

Business Record, FEARLESS 

If you tuned in to our Fearless launch, you heard me say that women’s issues are everyone’s issues and we’ll be covering them as such. With this month’s focus on leadership, it’s imperative that we discuss what men can do to be allies to women in the workplace. As Emily Blobaum reported last week, representation of women in executive-level leadership positions is far from equal. If we have any desire to change that, we need men in positions of power to step up with us in the fight for gender equity.

I reached out to Joe Murphy, executive director of the Iowa Business Council, to ask him to write about a policy or practice male business leaders should be focused on to empower women. I also asked a few IBC members, who are among the state’s largest employers, to share their thoughts about how men can be allies to women.

– Emily Barske, associate editor, Business Record

Supporting Women is Good for Business

By Joe Murphy | Executive Director, Iowa Business Council

At the Iowa Business Council, our vision is to elevate Iowa’s long-term economic vitality to achieve prosperity for all Iowans. Supporting women in the workplace, and pursuing policy initiatives to advance this mindset, is just one way the IBC is making a difference. Simply put, supporting women is good for business.

One of our biggest initiatives on the policy front is increasing child care access and affordability. As most are aware, if a family does not have access to child care services, it’s often the woman who decides to leave the workforce to care for a child.

This situation puts a strain on our economy and unfairly limits future leadership opportunities for women. The lack of child care options in Iowa, combined with rising costs within the industry, is not new and is getting worse. Consider the following examples:

75% of children under the age of 6 have all parents working outside the home.

42% of our child care providers have been lost in the past five years.

Child care costs represent 12% of a family’s median income. The statistic skyrockets to almost 41% of a family’s median income supported by a single parent.

To achieve success, we must fully eliminate the cliff effect and increase the viability of affordable, quality child care options throughout Iowa. These policy pursuits will benefit working moms and families throughout our state and increase economic opportunities. Not only is supporting women good for business, our future depends on it.

Business Leaders as Allies for Equality

By Dan Houston | Chairman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group

This year has underscored the consequences of inequality. The global pandemic has taken a particularly high toll on women and people of color. Communities are grappling with racial inequality in law enforcement. And women and people of color continue to be underrepresented in senior leadership roles, experience pay inequality, and face other disparities in our workplaces.

Inequality is everyone’s problem, and it’s everyone’s problem to solve. Those of us who are fortunate enough to hold positions of leadership have a particular responsibility to foster progress toward diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ve pledged to continue to be a catalyst for change within my sphere of influence – and though I certainly don’t have all the answers, I appreciate the opportunity to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned about being an effective ally.

Don’t just be a mentor – be a sponsor. This is the difference between sharing your wisdom with a colleague and recommending that colleague for a promotion.

Set the tone from the top. As a leader, it’s important to affirm the organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, explain how that commitment aligns with the organization’s mission and values, and plot the course for meaningful change.

Create change within our spheres of influence. This year as board chair for the American Council of Life Insurers, I supported an initiative that mobilizes the industry behind financial empowerment and racial equality efforts. We each have our own networks and opportunities to advocate for progress.

Perhaps above all, we need to lead our organizations to systemic action. No single person is responsible for the disparities in our organizations, and it will take sustained, intentional initiatives to overcome them. To foster inclusion in the workplace, business leaders must ensure their organizations:

Have a plan. Eight in 10 companies say they are focused on improving diversity and inclusion, but only 42% have a multiyear, documented strategy for getting there, according to a recent survey by HR consulting firm Mercer. This isn’t a journey that can be undertaken without a road map, like the Global Inclusion Strategy we’ve formed at Principal.

Adopt flexible workplace policies, where possible. Remote work, flexible scheduling, flexible time off and other benefits can promote work-life balance and prevent employees from exiting the workforce, especially in times of economic volatility – which is important today, since 80% of the people who left the workforce in September were women (and especially Latina women), concentrated in industries and roles overwhelmingly held by women and minorities.

Support small to midsized businesses. The economic consequences of COVID-19 have been felt particularly strongly by women- and minority-owned small businesses. Principal was proud to host the Giving Chain and sponsor 9/11 Day of Giving – two initiatives that supported our small businesses while providing benefits to hard-hit individuals. We applaud companies and nonprofits that took similar action.

Just as inequality is everyone’s problem, our communities and organizations will share in the benefits of progress.

Celebrating Women in Agriculture

By Tim Glenn | Executive vice president, CCO of Corteva

Embracing inclusion and equity is critical to business success. Studies have shown, for example, that gender-diverse teams have higher sales and profits compared with male-dominated teams. They have higher overall revenue, greater job satisfaction and overall more organizational dedication.

As an executive co-sponsor of Corteva Agriscience’s Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN), I am proud of our efforts to support women in leadership positions and provide opportunities to advance women in agriculture.

We are building a supportive network where our employees and farmers can develop professionally, and our diverse workforce sees themselves represented in leadership positions. Our internal business resource groups align with business objectives to help develop women leaders, improve education and awareness, and increase the pipeline of female talent at Corteva.

In Spain, Corteva launched the “TalentA” program to empower women “agripreneurs” by equipping them with the education, training and financing they need to achieve their business goals.

In Indonesia, Corteva launched the “Ibu Hebat” program (“great mother”) to directly support more than 6,000 women farmers with services and information responsive to their work and well-being.

Here in the U.S., our support for the “Dairy Girl” network provides women dairy farmers with in-field demonstrations plus additional tools and knowledge to help their operations.

These are just a few examples, and we are excited to help lead the way, though we still have work to do. As an ally for women, I will keep listening, just as Corteva will keep looking for opportunities to empower women in agriculture and realize the equity necessary to enable – and feed – our world.

Provide Opportunities for Success

By Reynolds Cramer | President and CEO of Fareway Stores Inc.

Being fearless is sometimes synonymous with being a bold trendsetter, full of life and passion. Being fearless allows people to go against the grain, to be different and to push for better because of their strong sense of purpose and mission.

Fareway is blessed to have many great employees who are fearless. We are even more blessed to have exceptional women who exemplify this at all levels of our company. These women include: on our executive team, Roxanne K. Roush, V.P. training and development; on our officer team, Andrea Chase, V.P. category management; and on our retail management team, Marie Stricker, grocery manager, and Abby Wiley, market manager. There are also many other fearless women in similar roles and hundreds of women in other roles who make our company run smoothly every single day.

In our business, women have the horsepower to ascend and flourish at every level. As an industry, and particularly as president and CEO of Fareway Stores Inc., I know it is crucial that we provide opportunities for women to demonstrate their leadership. I strive to give those opportunities, grow confidence and empower women at Fareway to succeed. Success can mean many things: a higher role, more responsibility within the company, a higher title, a better work/life balance or something totally different. But the result of the success is the same – it provides a stronger workforce and stronger company. Companies who don’t understand this are being left behind.

As a father I want my daughter to be fearless, to be provided opportunity and to be empowered. As a proud husband to a strong, fearless woman, I find that our son and I learn from her every day.

At Fareway, female employees should expect and deserve the same opportunities I would want my wife and daughter to have.

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