The Secret To Keeping Women Happy At Work Is Painfully Obvious

So why aren't more companies doing it?

01/19/2016 07:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 20, 2016
  • Emily Peck Executive Editor, Business and Technology, The Huffington Post
Poike via Getty Images

How do you help women succeed at work? It's not as complicated as some companies would have you think. 

Here's the "secret" --> You promote and recruit women into leadership and management positions, thus demonstrating that your company is a place where women are treated fairly.

Women who work at companies that have more females in management positions report higher levels of job satisfaction, according to some new data from Fairygodboss, a website where women review employers based on how they treat women.

Women also report higher levels of job satisfaction -- on a scale of 1 to 5 -- if they view their workplace as one where their gender is treated fairly, according to the Fairygodboss surveys. For instance, among those who gave their job satisfaction the lowest grade, 82 percent judged their workplace to be inequitable. Among those who rated their job satisfaction at the top, 86 percent judged their workplace to be equitable.

"These are common sense findings," Georgene Huang, cofounder of Fairygodboss, told HuffPost. "Women notice when there's gender equality at work, both in terms of diversity in the management teams and in the culture." 

Huang came up with the idea for Fairygodboss when she was searching for a job while pregnant and couldn't easily determine how much maternity leave companies offered. The website launched last March.

Fairygodboss

The two factors -- female job satisfaction and percentage of women at the top -- feed off each other. If women are happier at the company, they're more likely to stick around. And keeping women around is crucial to moving them into leadership roles.

Policies and cultures that support work-life balance also make women happy, according to the study, a review of survey data culled from 3,700 reviews by registered users of the site.

The users of Fairygodboss are, of course, a self-selected group not necessarily representative of American working women overall. About two-thirds, for example, are between 18 and 34 years old. Still, their reviews look at some of the biggest, best-known white-collar employers -- from IBM to Google to Facebook -- and include information that can sometimes be hard to find.

Fairygodboss

Women who use the site -- which offers information on employers' maternity leave policies and female-friendliness -- are asked if they'd recommend their employer to other women, whether their employer treats women fairly, how happy they are with their own job, how much maternity leave is on offer and how much maternity leave they've actually taken (if applicable).

Most major tech companies don't have anything near gender equality in upper management. Google's leadership team is 78 percent male. And just 58 percent of those Google employees who filled out Fairygodboss surveys (who, granted, constitute a very small percentage of the company’s total female workforce) said women are treated fairly there.

Facebook's leadership is 77 percent male. Sixty-seven percent of those Facebook employees surveyed on Fairygodboss said that women are treated fairly at the social network.

Google and Facebook are working on moving more women into leadership roles, and have made strides recently in improving work-life policies, specifically in amping up parental leave. They also like to tout their support for groups like Girls Who Code, which aims to get more women into the "pipeline" of future engineers. That's important, but obviously targeting efforts at the high-school and college levels is not going to put more women in the C-suite in the near future. 

Huang has some advice: "Just appoint more women. Just hire them! People will notice."

It's not just tech. Women are largely missing from the top ranks throughout corporate America. Only 28 percent of senior managers are women, according to a survey of 118 major North American companies from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org that was published last year. The percentage drops even lower as you go higher up the ladder. There are only 24 women CEOs in the Fortune 500.

Huang is presenting her findings Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a pow-wow for the world's top business leaders. The elite conference, too, suffers from a lack of gender equality: Only 18 percent of this year's attendees are women.

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