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Your company should become feminist.

I’m feeling super inspired today as I write this. As a matter of fact this is the fastest I’ve written anything which tells me I’ve hit on something. I had the privilege to attend SHE Summit 2015, a Global Women’s Empowerment Conference produced by Claudia Chan. This year’s conference focused on empowering women globally through education, equal rights and opportunity. You can read more about the conference here Being in a room full of powerful women focused on economic and humanitarian efforts is the BEST way to kick off your week by the way!

I have always been a strong supporter of women’s rights (dare I say feminist) and believed I was doing my part by voting, encouraging the women in my life (4 wonderful nieces and many friends, not to mention dozens of women professionals I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring) and speaking up when I felt it was necessary. But through the 80 presenters at last week’s conference I learned that I am not doing nearly enough to further the cause of women globally. I’ve had to sit with that uncomfortable thought all week and figure out how I can do more.

Through my work helping small companies grow and big companies transform there is a tremendous opportunity for me to help executives and boards understand the business case for supporting women’s causes. I have personally been blessed to work with companies in media, advertising and technology where women have held the majority of leadership positions so I took women in leadership for granted. But look at these statistics: women make up 50% of the workforce today however only 17% participate at the executive level and we still earn 23% less than our male counterparts. Want to learn more? Read the full study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey:

The reality is diverse workforces produce better results. Companies with the most female board members produce 16% greater sales and companies with sustained representation of women on boards far outperformed those without.

If you’re a small business it pays to empower your female employees. It helps improve your bottom line and differentiates you as an employer of choice. Here are some tips to get there:

  • Ensure equal pay for everyone - do an analysis, rectify discrepancies and ensure fair hiring practices. This means not penalizing women coming to your business at a lower salary because all of their previous employers paid them 23% less than they were worth.

  • Analyze your workforce. It should be as diverse as the target market for your product.

  • Implement community outreach hiring efforts – target schools and categories where women aren’t present and insist that women are represented as part of any senior talent search. F

ields lacking women talent today include technology and sales.

  • Create training and mentoring programs to encourage women to succeed in your organization. This includes training your entire workforce on gender sensitivity and diversity beyond legal compliance. Your employees need to know you support everyone’s success and have zero tolerance for anything less.

  • Get your male employees involved; female empowerment is not a women’s issue, it’s a global economic one.

  • Provide family-friendly benefits and flexible work schedules that enable all employees to be fully engaged in family building.

Every company wants to differentiate itself. Small companies can make BIG impact on women’s empowerment while creating BIG results with talent strategies targeting women. Will you consider feminism part of your talent strategy?

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