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How HR can offer the support women need in the workplace

The HR team's support for women has a powerful influence on gender equality and employee experience. Learn some tips on how to improve at your organization.

Gender diversity and inclusion should be a component of a company's overall efforts to create an equitable workplace. Yet, as with other D&I challenges, it is often overlooked.

Women face various challenges in their careers, said Samantha Rist, vice president of people at Ekata, a global identity verification company in Seattle, Wash. These include balancing their work and family lives, earning less than men and getting passed over during the hiring process.

HR departments need to support women by understanding and addressing these issues, Rist said.

In this interview, Rist discusses how to address family leave and pay inequality, as well as how diversity in the office goes beyond recruiting.

Supporting women in the workplace

What is an overlooked -- or possibly hidden -- challenge that women face in balancing family life and working life?

Samantha Rist: There's probably a crossroads as a female worker that I have seen over the years, and especially now that I'm in HR. It usually happens between the five- and eight-year working mark. Women kind of look around and contemplate, 'Will I get married? Will I have children? And what kind of effect is that going to have on my career?'

How can HR support employees who are starting or adding to a family?

Rist: One thing we need to look at is aspects of parental leave. It should be available regardless of how you bring someone into your family -- whether it's through birth of a child, through surrogacy, through adoption. Then we need to equalize time off so that both individuals can spend time forming a bond. It's never normal after you have a child, but you need to be able to find your feet so you don't feel overwhelmed on all fronts.

Gender bias and pay

Research shows that men still outearn women. What are some ways business and HR leaders can address this?

Rist: When total rewards reviews are being done, there should be an equity review.

You have to look at the population across many demographics to understand if there is bias in terms of what has occurred in the past and then how those biases can be corrected. And that's certainly pertaining to all aspects of pay, whether it be base, variable or equity.

Am I truly soliciting multiple perspectives and I'm listening to those perspectives and I'm valuing those perspectives to have a better business outcome? And that in itself is a very long journey.
Samantha RistVice president of people, Ekata

Gender equality in the candidate pool and beyond

A LinkedIn report found that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. How can companies ensure better gender diversity and inclusion and cognitive diversity?

Rist: Research says that if I have five candidates and I have two women out of the five, I've increased the odds that I will hire that diversity candidate than if I only had one.

It goes without saying that the bar has to be where it needs to be for the role that you're hiring for. But if I can fill that pipeline with an appropriate, diverse set of candidates, then I've increased the odds that I can bring in a diversity hire.

[Once I've hired women] I might have [more] optical diversity around the table, but am I truly soliciting diversity in how we run meetings and how we're asking for input and feedback? Am I truly soliciting multiple perspectives and I'm listening to those perspectives and I'm valuing those perspectives to have a better business outcome? And that in itself is a very long journey.

Editor's note: Responses were edited for length and clarity.

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