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International Women’s Day is a great day to reflect on whether your company is harnessing the full potential of your female employees. Additionally, you should consider if there are female candidates you’ve previously been overlooking that could help to increase productivity and profits for your business.

Women’s participation in paid work has steadily been increasing over the past fifty years in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), “women made up almost half the paid workforce in Australia in 2020, compared to around 30% in 1966.” However, more women work part-time than men and this is not always their preference.

Three tips for harnessing the value of female workers

1. Hire female migrants

Last year this ‘Untapped Potential’ report by Settlement Services International (SSI) investigated the economic participation of migrant and refugee women in Australia. The key findings were:

– Migrant and refugee women born in low and middle-income countries are, on average, better educated than Australian-born women.

– They are more likely to be underemployed, despite wanting to work full-time, often due to unrecognised qualifications.

Make sure that your company has unbiased hiring practices in place so that you aren’t overlooking the untapped potential of migrant and refugee women. It’s also important to review your company policies around which qualifications are recognised and to check if these policies are necessary.

2. Offer flexible work 

Female employees are often balancing work alongside care-giving roles in their personal life. A significant number of women want to work but may require flexible arrangements to do so. 

The pandemic brought about a revolution in how we do business with a vast array of companies adapting to offer flexible work. While some of these businesses have brought their workers back into the office, there are equally many companies (such as Atlassian) who now offer a permanent work-from-anywhere approach. 

Your business benefits from offering flexible work, for one, you become more competitive in attracting talented workers. Additionally, by respecting and trusting your workers to achieve independently, you are contributing to their wellbeing. Employees with flexible work arrangements often have a greater sense of purpose and happiness at work, which improves their productivity.

3. Provide career progression

Studies indicate that motherhood can have a detrimental effect on women’s career progression. Working mothers typically step out of the workforce (or reduce their hours) for longer than working fathers do. This often leads to both a financial and career disadvantage. Often termed the ‘motherhood penalty’, working mothers very often earn less, have less superannuation and are discounted for promotions. 

If you have a talented employee who also happens to be a mother, consider whether you are offering them the salary and career progression they deserve? Ensure that your company isn’t discriminating against parents and in particular women who are often shouldering the larger proportion of child-care responsibilities.