Thirty years. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, that’s how long it will take at the current pace until an equal number of women and men inhabit top-level positions at leading German companies. (That’s progressive compared to the US, by the way, where a recent study found that number to be 208 years.) And yet, despite countless initiatives and political debates, many companies are only beginning to register the considerable potential of female executives.
The causes of this are manifold and often systemic. Often throughout the course of their careers, women hit the so-called glass ceiling — an invisible barrier that makes it more difficult for them to be promoted into top management positions. Unchallenged gender-role assumptions, rigid business structures, a lack of access to informal networks, and the belief that leaders need to be accessible around the clock all also contribute to this issue.
Would you like to support women in your business and campaign for more equal opportunity? Then download our informational brochure about female empowerment here.
Given this slow progress, it is all the more important that businesses take gender equality seriously in order to affect real change. However, there’s also some good news: This doesn’t have to be difficult to take on. Furthermore, as in so many other areas of our coexistence, one aspect in particular comes to the forefront: the ability to communicate appropriately, openly, and sympathetically. Here we suggest a few approaches for how you can make gender equality a goal on your team, and how learning a new language can be of particular service to this goal.
Allow flexible working models
Flex time, or allowing employees to work outside the 9-to-5, in-office model, is still met with some degree of skepticism in Europe, North America and other major markets — in a 2016 German survey, a full 38 percent of executives claimed flexible work hours were damaging to one’s career, and the debate remains robust in the US to say the least. And yet, resistance to flexible hours makes it difficult for women — who already do most of the household care work and face more limits to their time — to balance career with family. Many women feel forced to decide against career advancement, or, thanks to assumptions about their availability, aren’t even considered.
And yet, the coronavirus pandemic is only the latest event to show us that flexible and location-independent work is the future. It is high time that businesses question old assumptions and offer contemporary work models. You can actively contribute to this by allowing work from home, doing away with the 9-to-5 requirement, and utilizing innovative models such as job sharing. Create an easy re-entry for mothers returning from parental leave, and speak often about possibilities for growth — for part-timers as well. And, just as importantly, give fathers the option to use their time to focus on the needs of their families, and create a work-life balance of their own.
Watch out for pay disparities
Structural conditions account for about three quarters of the gender pay gap. Women work part-time more often, and fewer women work for their companies’ better-paid departments; they are promoted to management positions less often, and earn a lower average hourly wage. The result? In 2019, women in Germany earned on average 20 percent less than their male counterparts, in the UK 15.5 percent less, and 19 percent less in the US.
If you notice gender gaps in the salary distribution of your own business, make it a priority to rectify this as soon as possible; this is the only way to ensure such injustices finally belong to the past. For equal work should earn equal pay — no ifs, ands or buts about it.
Promote good and open communication
Communication plays a central role in any business, but its importance is often underestimated. In order to promote equal participation of women in the workplace, you should therefore be particularly aware of how your employees communicate with both each other and their managers.
Set aside time to discuss communication topics with your team, and together define what makes good communication — in both everyday times, and times of crisis. Cultivate an atmosphere of trust, and make a concerted effort to include the opinions of your female team members. Offer regular times to discuss learning and professional advancement, and ask concretely about their wishes and next career steps, and, crucially: Don’t give discriminatory statements a chance.
Make a statement about diversity and a tolerant corporate culture
A higher percentage of women at management levels has positive effects on a business’s success — this has been shown time and again through numerous studies in recent years. Indeed, companies with a balanced gender ratio at the management level not only record higher sales, but they enjoy a more satisfied workforce, stronger company loyalty of skilled workers, and a more positive public image.
Companies shouldn’t wait any longer to take advantage of the substantial potential of female talent: Increase the percentage of female managers, live the values of an inclusive business and wear those values on your sleeve. In this way, you’ll increase your attractiveness as an employer and have a larger talent pool of applicants. Orient your business philosophy around the core value of diversity, and in doing so welcome more innovation, creativity and increased profits.
Increase your employees’ skill set with language courses
Professional development is one of the best ways to support your team, and your female employees in particular, as they continue on their career paths. Language courses from Babbel for Business offer a long-term developmental benefit in an area that can be used in all aspects of life — a learning effect that is itself twofold.
- First, learners expand their practical skills by acquiring important vocabulary and language competencies for their daily work. They train in compact lessons that focus on typical communication situations, such as telephone conversation, leading meetings or writing emails. To this end, Babbel offers a multiplicity of area-specific courses that cover everything from the pharmaceutical sector to the customer service industry.
- Secondly, in digital language courses by Babbel for Business, women can train in important competencies and soft skills that support career development. Through speaking a new language — which can be trained with Babbel Live as well as Babbel Intensive — women in the workplace gain more self-confidence in their interactions with colleagues and customers. The course contents put linguistic tools in hand, with which women can, for example, successfully lead negotiations, give presentations and manage projects in a foreign language.
With Babbel, you’ll make an important contribution to strengthening your employees’ skill sets. In addition, continuing language education and the examination of cultural particularities also promotes a change in perspective on your entire team, and thereby brings more tolerance, openness, and equality to your entire company.
Want to get started?
Take your first steps by downloading our practical language learning guide for your company.
Lea Naschberger, Content Project Manager
Lea is an expert in HR topics such as employee benefits or corporate learning. She believes that multilingual teams are the key to success.