by TJ Marston, ASLA, and the WILA PPN Leadership Team
This article is part of a guide the Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) Leadership Team is releasing this month titled How To Reach Gender Equity in Your Workplace: A Guide for Landscape Architects. For more information about the guide and why we developed it, check out our first article, Introducing the WILA PPN’s Gender Equity Guide: A Toolkit for Landscape Architects.
What can you DO to support women in the workplace?
The American Society of Landscape Architects’ Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) Leadership Team, led by PPN Co-Chair TJ Marston, has curated a list of tools and tips to help businesses and individuals tackle four important workplace issues that affect gender equity in landscape architecture: flexibility, caregiving, pay inequity, and discrimination.
- EDGE Certification is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. The methodology was designed for medium to large organizations with a minimum of 200 employees, but they do accept inquiries from smaller companies.
- The JUST program is a voluntary disclosure tool which helps organizations optimize policies that improve social equity and enhance employee engagement. Organizations can use the label on their website or marketing to demonstrate their commitments to these issues. While larger firms like Mithun and Sasaki have used this program with great success, the JUST program also has a sliding scale for pricing based on the size of your business. Anyone can do it, no matter the size!
- Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP)’s Gender Gap Analysis Tool is a free, user-friendly, and strictly confidential online platform that helps companies assess current policies and programs, highlight areas for improvement, and identify opportunities to set future corporate goals and targets. Results are provided in a concise and clear format so companies can easily identify areas for improvement.
- AIGA’s Gender Equity Toolkit is an excellent collection of resources (focused on the graphic design industry) empowering women in design and advancing the vital discourse on issues facing professional women today without generalizing or segregating women designers. The toolkit addresses persistent biases and inequities inclusively and constructively through programming.
- The Gender Pay Gap Calculator is a tool used by companies to understand their gender pay gap and make concrete steps to improve pay equity across the profession. The UK tool was recently used by Studio Gang’s founder, Jeanne Gang, to fix their gender pay gap. The calculator provides clear instructions on how to identify and calculate a company’s mean and median pay and bonuses for each gender.
- The Gender Assessment Tool is a free questionnaire developed by the World Health Organization to understand whether a program or policy is gender responsive. Answering the questions about your workplace programs or policies can help identify shortfalls in gender equity.
- TextioHire is an augmented writing tool which gives you the words you need to attract the people you want to hire, using language that reflects the very best of your values and culture. Textio Hire accurately predicts how your writing will compete for talent, suggests changes to get a more qualified and diverse candidate pool, and writes with you to build new hiring content in a fraction of the time.
- Werk is a people analytics platform that provides the tools and data to help companies embrace workplace flexibility in a structured way. Werk compiled research and reports which give us a clear background on why flexibility is important along with an explanation of their unique Flexverse strategy. Check out the podcast Startup Pregnant’s interview with Annie Dean, Co-CEO of Werk, for more about the company.
- TendLab™ is a science-backed consulting company which holds workshops for individuals and companies to explore how the skills developed while parenting can enhance career performance. Their research is pivotal to breaking biases around women and parents in the workplace. To learn more about how parenting affects women in the workplace, read this Forbes article, “Becoming A Mom Makes Women Better At Work,” by Mary Beth Ferrante, featuring TendLab’s research.
According to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report, gender equity in the workplace is at least 100 years away. Equity and inclusion in the workplace will not come in our lifetime without workplace leadership taking action now. If you are a leader or manager in your firm, try some of these tips to support women in the workplace. Your action is required for systemic change!
- Pay for licensure, including LARE exam fees, of all licensed employees in the office and provide scheduled time, PTO, or flexibility during work hours for licensure study. Work this into your financial planning and job contract with each new hire.
- Provide a comfortable and private space for nursing mothers in the office. There is nothing more stressful for a nursing mom in an office setting than trying to shove food down her throat while pumping milk in a closet, bathroom stall, or cramped semi-private room. There are a few ways employers can provide a more thoughtful and comfortable environment for this personal task:
- In addition to standard break times, provide flexibility in daily schedules to allow nursing moms time to pump and properly store their milk.
- Make sure you have dedicated (and concealed, if requested) space in a freezer for storing pumped breastmilk.
- Remember that nursing mothers may be temporarily less productive due to the time required of them to provide healthy food for their growing baby. The long-term benefit employers receive from having a parent on their team is an employee who has developed skills related to time management, leadership, communication, and multi-tasking. These benefits are well worth investing in providing comfort for new mothers during this temporary period.
- Support remote work. In order to support remote work access, you will need to invest more of your resources in high-powered laptops vs. desktops, use a cloud-based service for accessing files and develop new workspace communication tools (email is not efficient for remote work communication). If you are just getting started, try Dropbox or Google Drive for file sharing and Slack or WhatsApp for communication.
- Identify each employee’s optimal work type. Traditional 9-5 jobs are not the perfect fit for everyone. By learning more about how each of your employees likes to work, you can strategize planned flexibility, where employees have the opportunity to choose what types of flexible work times are best for them. Discuss this up front in the hiring process and through regular check-ins.
- Ask your employees “What is your biggest challenge?” on a frequent basis. Whether you work in a small or large practice, many employees are uncomfortable talking about what’s not working for them on both small and large issues. If you ask employees often “What is your biggest challenge?” they may feel more comfortable giving you insight into their struggles. Simply asking shows an eagerness from the employer to listen and allows the opportunity for you to grow together as a firm. When you do it on a regular basis, you build trust as a leader. As a result, employees may be more likely to approach you to discuss their challenges before they build to bigger problems, giving you an opportunity to listen, learn and adapt.
- Take action today. Right now, pick one employee and ask them “What’s your biggest challenge today?” Don’t take “nothing” for an answer. Even if it’s the simplest problem such as, “ I didn’t get enough sleep” or “I’m really cold in this office,” get an answer! Then listen, reflect and thank them for letting you know. Just listening is an act of building trust. If there is something you can do about it, you likely will.
- Disrupt work. Everyone gets bored in a job where they do the same thing over and over again. This can be especially problematic for new parents and new mothers. For many of us parents, we already feel the guilt or shame in missing out on time that could be spent with our kids. When we are engaged and challenged in work on a regular basis, that time away from your family isn’t nearly as painful.
- Provide robust maternity and/or paternity leave support for families (family leave). Discuss the desires for paid leave with employees in the hiring process. Providing both paternity and maternity leave also cuts down on discrimination in hiring, and shows potential employees you support happy, healthy families.
- Provide opportunities for mentoring and coaching. Mentors and coaches have different roles and approaches. As much as having a mentor is necessary, having a professional coach is critical to empower employees to make better career choices. The International Coach Federation provides a search tool for finding subject-specific coaches. Coaching topics include: Architecture, Career Choice, Entrepreneur, Leadership, Mentor, Personal, and Professional.
We hope to see this list expand, so please let us know if you have any feedback and/or additional tools and tips you are using to promote gender equity in your workplace!