March is Women’s History Month, which makes for a perfect time to commemorate the contributions and achievements of extraordinary women in the workplace. In stok’s pursuit of boldly catalyzing a socially equitable world, we strive to create an environment that empowers women and achieves gender equality. We’re stok(ed) to say that we are making headway in doing so.
With equity as one of our core values, we’ve put in a lot of work to create an organization that fosters inclusivity and gender diversity. In fact, our desire for equitability was one of the primary motivators behind designing our own org structure and pursuing the JUST Label and B Corp Certification.
However, we’ve learned throughout the years that you don’t need a complete overhaul of your organization to take steps toward inclusivity. Below are some examples of initiatives we’ve implemented that can help your own organization in the pursuit of gender equity.
Inclusive Hiring Practices
In March of 2015, the stok family was only 38% female, and our applicant pool was about the same ratio, or sometimes smaller. In 2019, 50% of our team is female in an industry that averages at about 25%. By making small, simple tweaks to your hiring process, your organization can attract a much more diverse group of candidates.
Watch your language
Four years ago, stok’s job postings contained some version of the phrase “looking for a sustainability rock star to join our growing team.” Seems pretty standard for a San Francisco-based real estate startup, right? As it turns out, the word “rock star” attracts a disproportionately male audience and actually deters women from applying for jobs.
You can discover these examples of gendered language by plugging your job descriptions into Textio, an app that uses language data and research to assign a “gender tone” to your job postings. It recommends alternative, gender-neutral words that you can use as an alternative to avoid skewing your candidate pool. Once we redirected our language tone to neutral, we noticed a substantial shift towards a more gender diversified group of applicants.
Diversity breeds diversity
During our search for “rock stars,” we also had a streamlined hiring process that only involved one or two people in the interview stage. While it was efficient to limit the number of people that spoke with each candidate, it also meant that new hires only met a small portion of our team. Being 62% male at the time, it was also probable that the candidate wouldn’t meet a single female stok team member during the interview process. Today, we involve at least four people in the hiring process for each new hire (yes, even for interns) to ensure that candidates meet team members with many different backgrounds and communication styles.
By diversifying your interviewers, each candidate will hopefully meet someone at the company that they can connect and relate to, and thus are able to picture themselves thriving within your organization. Creating mutual benefit to the company and the candidate, this also allows you to avoid unconscious bias when making hiring decisions by collecting feedback from multiple perspectives.
Flexible Work Schedules
After attracting a more gender-balanced team, the next step was adopting practices and policies to support women within the organization. We realized the typical 9-to-5 work week wasn’t necessary for our dynamic, and more importantly, wasn’t in line with our core values. By adopting the policies stok implemented below, your organization can move toward a more flexible work environment that is inclusive of team members at all stages of their careers.
Work from anywhere
In our increasingly digitized world, there isn’t as strong a need for people to come into the office every day, so why require it? Our office is usually half-full on any given day now, and we’re okay with that. If your team members can spend an extra hour with their family by not commuting to the office, why not fully support it?
Work at any time
We have a similar policy when it comes to work hours. Team members are required to work a set number of hours each year (equivalent to 40 hours a week minus holidays and vacation), but it doesn’t matter when those hours are worked. If you prefer to start your day at 8am so you can pick up your kid at 3, great! Or work 2 extra hours Monday through Thursday so you can take Fridays off, more power to you. If you are meeting client expectations, you can work whatever hours best fit your schedule.
stok is committed to supporting team members in all stages of their professional journey, and this sometimes manifests in the desire to decrease time spent at work to make space for personal pursuits. Our Part-Time Work Policy allows any team member to transition from full-time to part-time status, as long as they continue to achieve their prorated goals. We already have two new mothers that have transitioned to part-time work in the past year and hope that this policy continues to attract and retain a family-focused work force.
Robust Objective Processes
Just about everyone has unconscious biases that they bring to the workplace. So rather than try to shape humans to be completely unbiased, create objective and data-driven processes to make decisions. By implementing these processes and making them hyper-transparent to everyone in your organization, each team member has an equal opportunity to succeed. For stok, these processes are always a work in progress, and we continue to improve them over time.
Transparent compensation process
The gender pay gap is especially apparent in real estate. The industry median salary for women was $115,000 in 2015, compared to $150,000 for men – a 23.3% difference. stok was horrified when, a few years ago, we discovered we were a part of that problem by unintentionally paying women less than men for similar roles.
Studies have found that two of the biggest factors impacting the gender pay gap are negotiation and lack of transparency into salaries, so we vowed to remove both. We created a “salary matrix” that allows us to place new hires into a salary tier based on their years of experience, job duties, and qualifications (such as education and accreditations). After a team member is hired, they receive raises based on their ability to achieve transparent KPIs. By creating a standardized, objective approach to assigning salaries, your company can limit negotiation during the hiring stage, ensuring each new hire starts on an even playing field. An objective compensation process is also a stepping stone to salary transparency, further ensuring gender pay equity over time.
Equitable pathway to ownership
Similarly, we took great care in crafting an equitable pathway to ownership in stok. The path to leadership in organizations is often vague and subjective, which allows for biases, both conscious and not, to sneak in to the decision-making process. By defining a transparent methodology and KPIs that team members will be evaluated by, you can ensure that every person in your organization understands what it takes to achieve a leadership position. This allows for equal opportunity, opening the door for a more diverse range of leadership styles to thrive. After stok clearly defined our pathway to ownership and shared it with the team, we added four new Partners – three of whom are women – to our previously 100% male ownership team.
While we’re proud of the progress we’ve made in gender inclusion and diversity (and excited to see more companies continue to actively and effectively promote women in the workplace), we’re also aware that we have a lot more to learn (and share). Do you have stories or tactics of how your organization has supported women, or other challenges you’ve encountered in pursuing gender equality in the workplace? Send them our way!
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