During the month of March—Women’s History Month—Spoonful of Comfort is happily taking part in honoring the contributions of women in the workplace and beyond. International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8th and is a reminder of all the wonderful reasons to celebrate and utilize the significant talents and capabilities of the feminine half of the population. The month of March is a great time annually to assess the gender equality and diversity of your own organization.
Here at Spoonful, we’re just one of many rising companies owned and operated primarily by women. Our founder and CEO, Marti Wymer started the company after losing her mother to cancer in 2007. Marti’s experience inspired her to create a business centered on providing comfort to loved ones who live far away through gourmet soup delivery. She took a risk and agreed to pitch her business idea on national television on the American business reality series Shark Tank. (Read what she learned from the experience here!)
Today, Spoonful of Comfort is a business comprised of 80% women and incorporates many products into their gift packages from other women-owned businesses. In a letter written in honor of International Women’s Day, Marti recognized her female staff members with the following praise: “Every day I rely on (and am awed by) these collaborative, compassionate, principled, delightfully clever, and always hard-working individuals.”
There are many benefits to striving for representation of the sexes in any organization. Generally speaking, women and men bring unique strengths and weaknesses to the workplace (of course there are exceptions), but having both present in an atmosphere of mutual respect is a recipe for great success. Diversity in gender identity, race, age, ethnicity, etc. provides an organization with valuable perspective, resulting in a mature, inclusive, customer-conscious business.
Women in the Workplace
Did you know that companies with women prominently positioned throughout their organizations report greater profitability? Women bring balance and insight to organizations, and research is indicating that companies choosing to be gender equitable are reaping the rewards.
Benefits for businesses include the opportunity to draw from a talent pool that’s double in size, not to mention maintaining a better reputation for recruitment and employee retention. Younger female talent in the workforce is known to seek out companies with a good track record for diversity and equal pay rates. Today, companies stuck in the rigid patriarchal, racially flat systems of the past are avoided—and for good reason!
Women bring unique perspectives and draw from completely different life experiences than their male counterparts. As a global collective, women also spend many trillions of dollars annually as consumers, so their insight into customer spending is invaluable for any business. Women also tend to be excellent at dialogue and at reading non-verbal cues, which in business translates to improved communication, collaboration, and—when in leadership positions—utilization of team talents.
Shama Hyder, founder and CEO of Zen Media offered the following insight in an article she authored for Inc. “From professionalism to collaboration, to a supportive management style, to a cooperative problem-solving approach, women possess skills that make them invaluable assets. When women combine these capabilities to fuel their leadership, they achieve qualitative cultural gains and win quantitative business success alike. By productively integrating and advancing both soft and hard skills, female leaders innovate the organization itself and drive sustainable growth.”
Empowering Women at Work
Now that we've shared just a few reasons the business world is more wonderful with women in it, here are some ways to empower and strengthen women in your organization.
Listen – It’s not uncommon for the voices of women to go unheard and for their experiences and valuable insight to be retained in the safety of their own minds. It takes courage and vulnerability to speak up, share ideas, and offer feedback—especially in a room full of male colleagues. If you notice a woman being spoken over, consider returning to her repeatedly in the conversation until you’re confident she has been seen and heard. You can also invite reserved women in the room to share their opinions. They’ll likely have perceptive thoughts and observations.
Equip – Did you know men are typically promoted based on potential while women receive promotions based on experience? So, until the corporate environment evolves, it is critical that women are given plenty of opportunities for growth and career development within their current jobs. Organizations can easily empower the women they employ by equipping them with experiences that increase their value to the company. Can your company provide additional education and training in new technologies? What are some ways you can give the women in your organization an edge over the competition? Is your company willing to put forward the names of less experienced women for future projects to help them gain the knowledge and experience necessary for future promotion?
Mentor – In a 2019 Forbes article, contributor Patricia Duchene said the following regarding women and mentorship: “For a woman, traversing the work landscape can be tricky in a male-dominated industry. Having mentors, particularly ones who have been through the challenges that women in tech face can be a huge advantage and inspiration to a young professional.” Not only in tech, but women are still a minority in all STEM careers (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math). Mentorship is especially important for women entering these fields and others that are unaccustomed to gender diversity. Can your company strengthen female employees by developing mentorships and internships within your organization? Can you train mentors to openly share their successes and failures, to be approachable and available for mentee questions, and to be open to feedback?
Promote – Now that you’re aware that women are typically promoted based on experience, is your company ready to consider the women in your organization to fill future vacancies based on their potential alone? While you’re thinking about it, we’ll remind you that studies are showing that women thrive in leadership positions and excel at employee engagement.
Respect – It’s easy to agree that all humans are worthy of respect regardless of gender, race, economic status, etc. It’s harder to remove inherited bias and to behave in ways that prevent bias from causing harm—even unintentional—to others. An illustrative story of how unconscious bias had been holding women back occurred in 1952 when the Boston Orchestra attempted to diversify by holding blind auditions. The result opened the door to multiple women who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity to share their musical talents.
Remove unconscious bias – Biases are all around us, and it takes conscious effort to remove them from our perceptions. Many organizations are starting to provide unconscious bias training for employees to raise awareness and promote equality and respect in the workplace. When it comes to recognizing gender-related bias, it’s helpful to consider if things would feel “off” if the genders in any given situation were reversed. If the answer is yes, don’t hesitate to speak up!
Praise – Praise goes a long way in any organization and transcends gender in its value to humans. Unfortunately, in the patriarchal past, women commonly received praise for traits like submissiveness and for the superficiality of appearance. In today’s professional world, this is a big no-no, but it still happens. As an organization, practice praising performance and dole out congratulations and recognition in the workplace. By doing so, business will thrive in exciting ways. As Dale Carnegie once said, “People work for money, but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards.”
Support – Too often women are faced with choosing between career and family, when opportunities exist to succeed in both! There are many ways to support the women in your organization, but a primary value is flexibility. Do what you can to support flexible work schedules and give them the opportunity to develop real work/life balance. The pandemic has kicked off a new era of remote work that, while in its infancy, is steadily growing. This new way of working is providing benefits for women that include improved mental health and greater productivity. If your organization is still adhering to rigid schedules and mandatory meetings, consider beginning a slow but steady transition to flexible scheduling for interested employees of all genders.
Another way to support women in business is to provide awareness about company benefits available to them, such as childcare, tuition reimbursement, and health benefits.
Compensate – Though we’ve come a long way, the wage gap between male and female workers persists. Women still earn between 70¢-80¢ per $1 earned by men. The disparity is even greater for women of color. As a business, you can empower women by committing to close the wage gap. Be transparent about salaries and link pay, promotions, and raises to clearly marked milestones so it’s easy for women—and men—to identify and present their achievements for fair compensation.
As a woman-owned and operated company, Spoonful of Comfort is honored to celebrate the progress and accomplishments of all women during the month of March and beyond. We look forward to a promising future of continued progress and equality within our own—and all—organizations. Happy Women’s History month!