Women empowerment has captivated national and international headlines in recent months and continues to spread thanks to the #metoo movement and growing awareness of the gender gap in the workplace. But these issues aren’t just taking place in Hollywood. They’re affecting women in workplaces across the country.

Women are essential to the American workforce and the numbers prove it.Click To Tweet

Today, there are 75 million women over the age of 16 in the civilian labor force, which accounts for 47 percent of the total workforce. And when it comes to female employees in the U.S., there are 25.1 million working mothers with children under the age of 18. In order for your organization to retain these employees, it’s essential that they’re motivated and most importantly engaged.

According to Gallup, only 35 percent of female employees are engaged, which can affect your organization’s bottom line considering disengaged employees cost the country an average of $500 billion each year.

In order to boost employee engagement, especially among women in your organization, here are four strategies:

1. Foster an organizational culture with a focus on friendship: A 2016 Gallup study about women in the workplace found that female employees who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63 percent) compared to 29 percent of women who say otherwise. The same study also found that two-thirds of women claimed the social aspect of a job as a “major reason” why they work. Employees want to establish meaningful connections with their colleagues. This doesn’t mean implement forced office friendship events, but rather support a culture in which friendships and connections with colleagues can be formed and thrive. Click here to learn more about how to foster friendships in the workplace.

2. Implement flexible-work schedules: Research has shown that one of the reasons for the gender gap in the workplace is the expectation of employees to spend long hours at their desks. Employees, especially women, are often hesitant to ask about flexible work schedules out of fear of being penalized in pay and promotions. Having policies in place will eliminate this stigma and establish credibility and trust with female employees, especially working moms. A recent Gallup report said 33 percent of working mothers say their employer is doing ‘very well’ at allowing them to work from home when needed. An equal percentage say their employer is doing ‘very poorly.’ Knowing they have the opportunity to work from home or shifting hours to be with their children more will go a long way in engaging working moms.

3. Develop mentorship programs: If your company has the resources, employers can engage its female audience by developing its own women’s mentorship program. The latest research from the Boston Consulting Group, found that junior-level female employees reported a positive experience with mentoring; senior-level women at lower-engagement companies were less satisfied with their work. It can also be beneficial to look outside the organization for mentorship opportunities. According to Inc., one way to support female employees is to encourage them to join women-focused professional organizations such as the American Business Women’s Association, the National Association of Professional Women or even a MeetUp group for Young Professional Women.

4. Offer benefits that women actually want: Companies like Google and other tech start-ups have received praise in recent years for offering unique benefits such as nap rooms and comp time for egg freezing and in vitro but a recent InHerSight survey shows that women prioritize paid time off, respectful work environments, flexible work hours and salary satisfaction/equality as top desired employee benefits. Harvard Business Review also looked at desired employee benefits citing better health insurance, flexible work hours, vacation time and work-from-home option as the top benefits desired by today’s employees.

Before moving forward with implementing these strategies, carefully evaluate what is realistic for your organization and that your company has the necessary resources to do so successfully. Also, it is important to note that these strategies can be applied across all employees. Click here to learn more about how to engage employees in an ever-changing workplace.

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