As someone who has worked in several industries, I know that most workspaces—from offices to restaurants to even theaters—could use some upgrades to make them a bit more female friendly. Everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve had to give myself a little pep talk and put on imaginary emotional armor just to walk in each day. That’s not to say I’ve worked in places that were particularly hostile towards women, but I will say that it was so clear that the men there felt right at home, right away. They didn’t worry that at any given moment, someone may make a subtly sexist comment that could ruin their day. And they didn’t speak up with timidity in their voice, and fear that someone would question their intelligence or even their right to speak. Nope—that’s the plight of women in the workplace. Here are upgrades for a more female friendly workplace that every industry should consider.
Ask females higher up to be mentors
Female mentorship programs can be a tremendous way to help females feel comfortable pursuing higher positions and to train them in how to do it. Women can often feel intimidated to ask their male superiors to mentor them, and may not feel as encouraged to pursue higher positions as men do. Create a mentorship program between the high up females in the company and the female staff.
Rethink your health benefits
Do your female employees get free mammograms? How about holistic treatments like acupuncture and chiropractic massages? How about hiring a mobile mammogram that comes to the office, and does screenings on-location?
Lengthen maternity leave
Take a look at your maternity leave policy. While 12 weeks unpaid is mandated, could you consider giving 16 weeks, and offering the mother to work-from-home for the final four, paid? Therein allowing her to spend more time with her new child, and not miss out on income?
Make sure there is a woman in every department
If your company is broken up into clearly designated departments, you should make a point to hire a female in each one. Your separate departments will have to communicate, and this makes women in all departments feel more comfortable approaching the other wings and departments.
Create a room for new moms
If you can afford to set up a daycare in your office, that’s tremendous. But even if you cannot, consider creating a room for new moms. This is a place where mothers can comfortably nurse their babies, or watch their little ones while they work. It could be equipped with comfortable chairs for nursing, and toys, games and snacks for little ones.
Celebrate new moms
If a woman in your company has a baby, it should be a big deal! Your office should throw her a party the same way they do for people having birthdays or retiring. The office should send her a very nice new-moms or pregnancy basket, filled with goodies to make nursing a little one or being pregnant a little bit easier.
Have a supplies basket in the restrooms
Sending the office assistant on a Costco run once a month to fill a female goodies basket can go a long way, and won’t cost much. Keep a basket in the women’s restroom that’s filled with Midol, tampons, bobby pins, safety pins, makeup remover and—if you want to be really thoughtful—women’s daily vitamins.
Add a heel rack
Many women wear heels to the office and important meetings, but to just move between the restroom, the break room and other departments, they change into flats. Put a heel rack in the office so women have somewhere to properly store their heels during work. Again, if you want to go above and beyond, you could purchase little soft slippers for each female employee.
Revamp the kitchen
Stock the kitchen with some more female-friendly items like dark chocolate, soy milk, soy nuts, Chai tea, yogurt, and fruit. We tend to watch our weight and our gut health more than men do, so we’ll appreciate something beyond the typical basket of potato chips and trail mix.
Women’s recreational groups
Create a women’s softball league, an after work women’s happy hour/social group and more. And if you’re thinking, “If we made a men’s only one, that would cause a lot of drama” well, guess what? The world has been a men’s only club for a long time. Men do not struggle to find a place where they feel safe and welcome. They won’t complain if you create a women’s only wine hour for the women at the company.
A late night chaperone policy
No woman should walk to her car, or the metro station, alone. Start a policy at work where men don’t leave the office without asking if any women need to be walked to their car, or driven to the metro station. You could even simply send out a company-wide email each day, designating a few times when groups will be walking together to the metro station or the parking garages.
Better toilet paper
Hi: we use toilet paper every time we go to the bathroom. And if you know any women, then you know we pee a lot. So not only do we need to use toilet paper each time we pee, we also pee, like, four times as much as men do. Please invest in some Charmin.
Standing desks, massage chairs, and yoga mats
We could use a little help around that time of the month. Midol only fights cramps so much. Have some standing desks in the office; sitting for too long with cramps can make them worse. Buy a few yoga mats, so women can lie down and stretch out when their cramps are really bad. And invest in one nice massage chair.
A mommy assistant
If you already have a few office assistants who do things like run to the post office and pick up office lunch, you could add mommy duties to their to-do items. The moms in your company can use all the help they can get between working and raising kids. If the office assistant is running to the store, ask if any of the moms need a certain grocery. It could save them a trip to the store after work, when they’re exhausted.
Don’t separate us
Women, more than men, need the boost of particular hormones we get from socializing. Do not separate us into individual cubicles. Simply seeing and hearing one another—even if we aren’t speaking that often—will help us feel happier and healthier.