5 Signs A Company Is Supportive of Women

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No one claims that finding a job is easy. What’s even more difficult? Finding a job that kick-starts your career with people you like and benefits that set you up for financial, physical and emotional well-being.

When you’re job searching, it’s critical to do your research ahead of time and decide what’s right for you. One way to know that you’ve found a potentially great place to work is by looking at how supportive that company is of women. Here’s our list of five key indicators (and a few red flags) that can hint at a positive and female-friendly environment.

1. Female role models

The first thing that can show whether or not a company is supportive of women is the presence of other, successful women. Are there women on the board, or in the C-suite? Do they exist beyond traditional “female” leadership roles like HR or Marketing?

Having women at the top matters because it shows they belong in leadership roles and positions of power. If your industry is one traditionally dominated by men, such as tech or finance, it makes even more of a difference. According to Harvard Business School, finding allies in your identity group allows you to explore and change current practices—giving you the confidence to make an impact.

If you’re trying to assess how women are treated at an organization, and there aren’t any women to ask, there might be a problem. “Generally, I ask pro-women questions during an interview, preferably to another woman,” says Charis Loveland, Sr. Program Manager at Microsoft Cortana Analytics Suite. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Related: What To Do If You Find Yourself Unemployed In Your '20s 

2. Support of women’s empowerment events and groups

Knowing your senior leadership has ties to important women’s associations can indicate whether or not they’ll be more supportive of your personal development. Alaina Leary, a graduate student at Emerson College, says, “I found out my boss and the owner had ties to the Women Business Owners Association in the area, so I knew she was supportive. Looking for that kind of thing, on a prospective employer’s website or on LinkedIn, can give you a sense.”

Does your company sponsor women-powered events or promote women’s leadership in groups or forums? Says Charis, who’s Massachusetts-based, “An awesome way to assess a company’s reputation with women is at women’s conferences. I generally attend The Massachusetts Conference for Women, the Simmons Leadership Conference and the Grace Hopper Conference. All of these are excellent venues to discuss work experiences with other women.”

Does your company of interest have smaller, female-centric groups within the company, like support groups, women's forums or informal women's groups? Being able to speak up about what’s bothering you to a group of people going through the same things can help change an existing culture or set the right tone in any office. 

Great events happen everywhere. Is it acceptable and encouraged by your company of interest to find such events? Even better, do the men of that company attend such events or conferences? Money shows what companies value, and if they’re willing to put up the dough to send a significant amount of women to a conference devoted to working and talking through women’s issues, it’s a sign they care about that population of the workforce. 

3. Women’s health benefits

Though you may balk at the idea of having a baby this early in your career, the presence of significant maternity (and paternity) leave lets you know whether or not it’s possible in the future, and can be a good litmus test of other women-friendly health policies.

The news can be a good place to start. The New York Times’ expose on Amazon’s culture—particularly related to how they treat women coming back from maternity leave—made headlines. Amazon has since revamped its policies, but it’s more important than ever to do some research and a quick Google search on your prospective employer, or reach out to your current HR representative. Other roundup lists, such as this one from Money Magazine, can give a great snapshot of the best policies in your industry.

If women repeatedly feel pressured or punished by taking time off from work to start a family, it may not be a good environment—whether or not you’re planning to do the same.

4. Equal pay for equal work

How women get penalized for equal work is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Since it's common policy not to talk about salaries, you likely won't be able to figure out what your peers (both male and female) are making at a specific company; but it's a good idea to do your research on the industry and get an idea of how much you should expect to make in the position you're interested in, based on your past experience and the title you're aiming for.

There are a few hints you can look for; particularly how executives and leadership talk about gender parity (if they talk about it at all). Some companies, like Salesforce, have taken a public stance on the issue, paying nearly $3 billion to close their pay gap. While this may start a trend of disclosing gender gap as part of earnings, it’s fairly hush-hush for the most part.

You can also look for gender parity on rating sites like Glassdoor, which can give you a bit of insight not only into the company culture via reviews but also potential salaries, interview questions, and more—incredibly useful for someone on the job hunt!

Related: The Global Gender Pay Gap Won't Close For 118 Years

5. Do they value you?

Being valued as an employee matters, whether you’re a woman or not. When you’re interviewing, are they listening to what you have to say? If a prospective employer doesn’t take you seriously in an interview, there’s no way they’ll listen to what you have to say in the day-to-day environment. Alaina says, “I turned down a job offer in 2015 because I could tell the company wasn’t supportive of women—the interviewers literally laughed at one of my suggestions and put me down with a snide comment. I was shocked when they even sent me an offer.” 

This type of behavior is unacceptable no matter your gender.

“In general, being taken seriously, being valued, and not being asked sexist questions or treated in a sexist way [during the interview] are all good signs,” says Alaina. “Every interviewer [at my current company] valued my skill set, ideas, and opinions—they took me and what I had to say seriously.”

If a company isn’t supportive of its employees in general, chances are they aren’t supportive of women either. Making sure that a potential company (or your current one) values your contributions will make a difference not just for your career, but for your happiness too.

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About The Author

Kayla grew up in the small town of Hopkinton, MA, where the Boston Marathon begins. She graduated Colby College in 2014 as a Government and Global Studies major ready to take the tech world by storm. As a marketer for Litmus, an email marketing platform, she builds stories and experiences to help her customers become the best email marketers they can be. She is a passionate writer, reader, hiker, swimmer, runner, and eater who loves to connect ideas and people. Like what she has to say? Check out her blog: www.kaylalewkowicz.com/blog

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