In a global economy with an increasingly tight yet diverse workforce, employers must create workplaces that suit the needs of diverse populations. And women are a big part of the equation. In fact, according to a recent economic blog update by RSM Chief Economist Joe Brusuelas and one of RSM’s Industry Eminents, Laura Dietzel, women now outnumber men in the workforce (50.04% to 49.96%). There are 109,000 more women than men in the American workforce, excluding agricultural jobs, which foreshadows what we at RSM believe will be a significant period of change in wages, benefits and the way companies of all sizes work.

And yet, certain questions in the fourth quarter of RSM’s 2019 RSM US Middle Market Business Index (MMBI) uncovered that only 27% of executives indicated that their organizations support gender-equality causes, and 46% reported that they are focused on women’s issues and empowerment. Without a stronger focus on women, these businesses will miss out on the benefits driven by this shift in the workforce and the diverse perspectives women bring to business.

A formalized inclusion strategy can enhance a company’s ability to attract and retain high-performing women. At RSM, our 11 employee network groups help ensure that all of our 11,000+ employees nationwide feel a sense of belonging at our firm. One of these groups – STAR (Stewardship. Teamwork. Advancement. Retention.) – is focused specifically on women. And while it’s geared toward women, STAR is open to anyone at RSM who is interested in issues important to this segment of our workforce. Members receive regular communications from STAR leaders and are invited to participate in various events across the firm. We also make leadership opportunities available to STAR members, so they can learn and practice important workplace skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

What else can employers do to help women succeed in the workplace? Each company has a unique culture that shapes the way its people interact, so activities focused on women in the workplace should be tailored to each company’s culture. Some we’ve found successful at RSM include:

• Create a formalized inclusion plan. This might include a focused recruitment strategy that targets diverse populations, with an emphasis on women. Employers should regularly review talent pipelines, and monitor attrition and promotion rates for women, and make adjustments where needed to ensure that they can attract and retain key female talent.

• Place an emphasis on leadership. Provide leadership mentoring programs for high-performing women to help them build their internal networks, create a sense of community and enable your company to address leadership issues with the female perspective as part of the equation.

• Provide flexibility. Help employees manage the demands of both their professional and their personal lives. While flexibility benefits all employees and their employers, it’s particularly helpful for women, who tend to shoulder more of the responsibility for activities on the home front.

• Offer educational and networking opportunities. Implement programs around self-advocacy, networking opportunities and access to other women leaders to foster additional and inspiration that might not be found elsewhere in a corporate setting. RSM recently hosted a women’s leadership event where we focused on teaching women how to build their personal brands, boost their self-confidence, fine-tune their negotiation skills, develop pools of allies and sponsors, and become self- advocates. While these topics are relevant to all of our professionals, there are differences in how women approach these things and in how they’re perceived when they do. Openly acknowledging these differences and discussing how to address them makes women more confident in their careers.

• Be creative. Continuously look for innovative ways to talk about gender inclusion. At RSM, for example, we offer our STAR ENG “Women’s Words of Wisdom” video series, which provides tips and insights on a variety of topics important to STAR members. These aren’t expensive, professionally produced videos, but simple brief videos shot with personal phones that allow us to quickly and easily share information and insights to help women succeed.

With women now accounting for more than 50% of today’s workforce, providing a welcoming and inclusive work environment for this portion of the population is clearly a business imperative. Take the steps needed today to keep your company competitive in the future.

Dara Castle is the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area Offices market leader and is the national leader of RSM’s government contracting practice. As the market leader, she is responsible for the culture, growth and strategy of the four Washington area offices and developing employees to have deep industry expertise and to be first choice advisors to the middle market, globally. As the leader of RSM’s Women’s Initiative, Castle focuses on the retention and advancement of RSM women through the STAR employee network group. This work includes leading the strategy and development of programs and initiatives that address gender diversity in RSM’s workplace, workforce, community and marketplace.

About RSM US LLP

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to its clients, colleagues and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. The clients it serves are the engine of global commerce and economic growth, and it is focused on developing leading professionals and services to meet their evolving needs in today’s ever-changing business environment.

RSM US LLP is the U.S. member of RSM International, a global network of independent audit, tax and consulting firms with more than 43,000 people in more than 120 countries. For more information, visit rsmus.com, “like” on Facebook, follow on Twitter and/or connect with on LinkedIn.

Return to Panelist main page

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.