In our new series, we’ll explore how organizations can be more open to diversity and why it’s good for business. Here, we look at how business leaders can build a workplace that works for women.
In August 2018, AllBright, a British, all-woman private members club, appointed Allan Leighton as its first chairman. The move drew criticism from some female business leaders.
Many of them thought the hire was at odds with the club’s mission to make the UK the best place to be a female leader.
86% of female Gen Yers say an employer’s record on gender diversity is a make-or-break factor
AllBright defended the move by explaining that men need to be part of the solution.  But considering just 4.8% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are women, it’s no surprise some felt the hire was a missed opportunity.
But it’s not just AllBright that’s battling with ways to transform gender diversity at the top. 86% of female Gen Yers say that an employer’s record on gender diversity is a make-or-break factor on the job hunt.
It’s a group making its presence felt in the push for workplace inclusivity. And it’s also beginning to push companies to change. 
Building workplaces that work for women
Sandra Ondraschek-Norris is a Senior Director at Catalyst Europe where she works with leading global institutions to improve workplace diversity. Workplace and Canvas8 met Sandra to find out how businesses can build workplaces that work for women…
1. What does gender equality look like in the workplace?
When we assess workplace gender equality, the focus is on whether or not companies have an equitable ratio of men and women.
Gender equality is more than just whether companies have equal ratios of men and women
But whether women are involved in decision-making or hold positions of power and influence are especially important.
It’s vital to consider where women are not at the table, whether they feel welcome in a work culture and if they’re subject to bias and stereotyping.
We are moving in a better direction in terms of female representation on boards and in leadership positions. And companies are recognizing the benefits and implementing policies and practices to increase gender diversity.
But although there’s definitely progress, we’re not yet at the point where we can rest on our laurels.
2. What do female Gen Yers want from work, and how can businesses keep them engaged?
With different generations in the workplace, the availability of information is a crucial thing. People now are more aware of diversity issues, and gravitate to companies that are appealing in terms of providing equal opportunities.
People gravitate to companies that provide equal opportunities
Women want equal opportunities, they want fairness and they want to feel that they are taken seriously at work. Our research shows that ultimately, men and women want the same things.
Both value flexible working arrangements equally and women aspire to senior-level rankings just as much as men do — they just need to be given the right opportunities for advancement.
In light of this, the kind of leadership we need has also changed. It’s not just about hiring more women — leaders need to be able to leverage and manage those diversities effectively.
3. How can companies empower women at work in an authentic way?
Companies need to have real leadership commitment around empowering women. The tone at the top should be absolutely committed to workplace inclusivity.
Organizations know they need to change the pathways to leadership for women. Find out why in the first teaser for our upcoming new video.
Posted by Workplace by Facebook on Tuesday, September 4, 2018
And there should be clear targets and accountability towards creating inclusive, flexible and diverse workplaces.
Returnships are a key way to help women thrive at work
There are several key areas in which companies can help women thrive at work. The availability of flexible work is a big one. so are returnships — methods of helping women who may be temporarily out of the workforce re-enter it.
For those who are on flexible working schemes, technology can enable them to stay connected, remain collaborative and to participate, even when working remotely.
4. How can empowering women benefit business?
Investing in diversity is critical for innovation, performance, and reputation within a business. It has taken companies some time to realize that if a workforce reflects the diversity of its consumer base, then productivity and innovation will be better.
Studies have shown that team diversity reduces groupthink and leads to better decision-making, problem-solving and creative output.
Consumers are more likely to have positive feelings about companies that are gender-diverse
In our work on inclusion, we have also found a clear link to improved team performance: if people feel included, they are more likely to go the extra mile and be good team players.
Companies are gradually seeing the benefits of focusing on diversity and inclusion, and how important it is for retaining talent and building group trust.
On the other side, consumers are also more likely to have a positive feeling about companies that are gender-diverse, which improves brand reputations.
5. Keeping in mind Gen Y and Zers’ attitudes towards gender equality, what does the future of the workplace look like?
Younger generations are more likely to be open to ideas of diversity and inclusion, and they’re more tech and media savvy on the whole.
All of these traits together will help to facilitate workplaces where equality comes first, and there are flatter hierarchies and more collaboration between all employees.
After all, growing up in more diverse settings than ever before has resulted in many of the younger generation having different attitudes towards inclusivity that we’ve seen in the past.
Clearly, there’s work to be done, but there are so many more people today who are finally taking inclusivity seriously. We are seeing a new generation of young leaders emerging, which means we can move faster towards building workplaces that work better for everyone.