A Guide to Building Workplaces where Women Thrive

Post by: Yvette Midwinter, Kacey Canning, Lauren Nugent Isabel Lagos
Published: 7 March 2023

Companies must have clear and transparent goals if they want to build gender balanced teams. Is there a formula for building workplaces where women thrive? We need effective, sustained practices to ensure we can prevent and address unconscious bias and discrimination wherever and whenever it seeps in. And more importantly, we need positive, proactive action that looks at promoting and supporting inclusivity across the board.

Debate and discussion are ongoing when it comes to these topical issues. Here, we’ll hear the perspectives from four of our top professionals on these issues: our Director, Yvette Midwinter, Kacey Canning – Senior Consultant, Lauren Nugent – Senior Talent Advocate and Talent Advocate, Isabel Lagos

The value in developing clear, transparent goals for gender parity in the SaaS space

It is incredibly important for representation across all industries, and particularly so, within the SaaS sector for one simple reason: both genders bring something unique to sales.

Yvette Midwinter

Transparency creates accountability. It’s very easy to have a loose agenda or values around gender equity but having quantifiable goals means there needs to be a serious program of work to back it up.

Kacey Canning

From a cultural perspective, a balanced team brings significant benefits such as higher productivity, teamwork,  motivation, and employee retention. The workplace just becomes a joyful place to be!

To do this, we need managers and leaders experienced in leading female employees so they do what is needed for women to upskill and provide safe spaces to thrive.

As many are already aware, a huge part of being successful in any role is working with a strong leader or mentor. It comes down to people in the end.  We need clear, transparent goals so everyone is on the same page and we need measurable targets, tracking, and progress reporting as well.

Isabel Lagos

Gender parity will create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Does this not lead to better business outcomes? Of course, it does. I believe a good formula for a workplace where women can thrive involves these components: 

●  Diversity and inclusion training

●  Mentorship and sponsorship programs

●  Flexible work arrangements

●  Pay equity

●  Clear promotion and advancement criteria

●  Family-friendly policies 

Lauren Nugent

It’s 2023 – women should be accepted and embraced in any industry! SaaS has been a male-dominated industry for too long and we need to break the bias. We need more opportunities for women to step into leadership roles.

When this happens, it will entice more women to join. Female leadership will ensure women feel more comfortable raising their hands about issues they face. So get your management on board, and ensure they’re leading by example. Needless to say, you must have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of discrimination or harassment.

Unconscious bias or inadvertent discrimination at play

We’re not always conscious of the inadvertent ways in which companies could discriminate against women. But there are a number of barriers that still remain.

Lauren Nugent

Are there things we can do to address this? Yes, there are. Hire more female leaders and encourage women to speak up when they need to. Create an inclusive work environment that values different perspectives and ideas. Spend time promoting a culture of respect and collaboration. Provide training and development opportunities to help women advance in their careers.

Break the gender pay gap –  pay women equally to men and offer the same opportunities for growth and progression. You need things like paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and affordable child care. And for increased visibility on the issues, run events promoting women such as in connection with International Women’s Day. Host regular forums so you can get feedback from employees. There’s so much that can and should be done.

Isabel Lagos

There is gender bias in recruitment: companies may unconsciously favour male candidates over equally qualified female candidates. And the lack of diversity in leadership is noticeable. Companies with few women in leadership positions may send the message that women cannot advance to top positions.  

Let’s not forget unequal pay and benefits: women may be paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same job, even if they have similar qualifications and experience.  

And what about the following:

●  limited access to flexible work arrangements: many women juggle work with caregiving responsibilities

●  gender-based harassment and discrimination: women may face harassment or discrimination in the workplace based on their gender (such as sexual harassment or gender-based microaggressions)

●  a lack of diversity and inclusion initiatives: companies that do not prioritise diversity and inclusion may inadvertently perpetuate discriminatory practices and create a culture that is unwelcoming to women.

Yvette Midwinter

Companies unconsciously discriminate against women in the workplace when they don’t have proactive strategies to create gender parity. A lack of truly accountable, transparent action can often be the equivalent of turning a blind eye.

This gives rise to issues such as pay disparities, biases in hiring, promotions, and assignments, and inflexible policies that make it difficult for women to balance their work and family lives.

Kacey Canning

It starts at the very beginning of the interview process. Companies need a mixed panel as it’s very common for SaaS managers (especially new ones) to hire employees who have similar interests, looks, and cultural backgrounds and think that’s a “culture fit”.

To support hiring a gender-balanced team, you must set diversity hiring goals in advance. Give yourself time to hire too so you’re able to have a more equal number of candidates in the interviewing process. It’s also fairly common to not have programs, policies, or initiatives that support a work environment where women can thrive. I’m referring to flexible work hours,  childcare options, and mentoring programs. 

Steps companies can take to achieve inclusivity in the post-COVID-19 era

Isabel Lagos

There are definitely a number of things that companies can do to achieve inclusivity:

●  emphasise diversity, equity, and inclusion in your company culture

●  provide flexibility and remote work options

●  support work-life balance and employee resource groups

●  conduct regular diversity audits.

One company making strides in this space in the post-COVID era is Microsoft. They run several initiatives including establishing a DEI committee that offers unconscious bias training and expanding their remote work policies. Further, they have also committed to increasing the number of underrepresented groups in leadership positions by 50% by 2025.

Lauren Nugent

There are a number of initiatives, outlined below, that I believe are incredibly important:

●  include a childcare subsidy so women can step back into hybrid roles

●  encourage women to take on leadership positions and develop their voice in the company

●  provide mentorship and coaching programs so women can learn new skills

●  encourage flexible hours and locations to enable better work-life balance

●  have a fellow female colleague as the go-to voice of women

●  evaluate the workspace continually – if it’s not inclusive, make the changes needed

●  allow women to bring children to the office if they can’t hire a childminder

●  sponsor women’s events and/or have an internal women’s group.

Yvette Midwinter

Develop policies that ensure equal access to opportunities, such as promotions and career development. Implement flexible working arrangements such as flexible hours and remote working, to enable employees to better manage their work/life balance.  Encourage open dialogue and feedback.

Debunking myths

Kacey Canning

Myth #1 (seen numerous times): both genders can’t achieve the same goal, especially in sales.  I think this stems from past company structures with fewer women in C-Suite roles and having aggressive sales language that’s not associated with women’s ‘attributes’ i.e having a ‘killer instinct’ or ‘being a shark’.

Myth #2: women are too emotional to work in sales. Women are known to bring a lot of soft skills to the table such as empathy, problem-solving, and communication. These are key in a long sales cycle.  We are seeing more and more women in tech roles, and many are excelling. Women often have an innate understanding of user experience which is critical for designing successful products. 

Myth #3: women have to choose between having a family and a career. This is such outdated thinking and simply not true in most modern workplaces.

Lauren Nugent

Three myths I’d like to highlight:

●  Women don’t work as hard as men –  this is an outdated, sexist belief that needs to be put to rest

●  Women are not as interested in leadership roles as men – a stereotype. Many women are interested and just as qualified as men for these positions

●  The workplace is a level playing field for everyone. The reality is that women often face discrimination and barriers in the workplace that prevent them from achieving their full potential.

Isabel Lagos

Gender parity in the workplace requires debunking myths such as women being less committed to their careers, being less skilled or qualified, that they are not interested in leadership positions, and that diversity initiatives are unnecessary.  

Research shows that women are just as committed, skilled, and qualified as men. They are interested in leadership positions. However, gender-based barriers such as bias, discrimination, and a lack of role models and mentorship often hold women back. Therefore, diversity initiatives are necessary to address these issues and promote gender parity.

Yvette Midwinter

The big one for tech vendors is this idea that female sales leaders and executives won’t be able to achieve difficult or aggressive goals because the family will always be a higher priority. I think COVID-19 has shown us that there are many different ways of working and achieving goals. It really is time to see how the leadership profile can evolve.

Want to hear more about creating an inclusive workplace? Get in touch!