What it takes to be a workplace that empowers women

For all the professional gains women have made over the years, gender-based wage discrimination persists. This was a key finding in a public forum held by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in late April. The forum, which was attended by government and private-sector experts, was just one of 24 events the federal agency sponsored this past spring to bring attention to the problem of wage discrimination.

A representative from Catalyst -- a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business – expressed concern about the gender leadership gap that accompanies the pay gap. She shared that over 98% of Fortune 500 companies are led by male CEOs, and that women at these companies start off with salaries $4,600 less than men.

Clearly, we can do better.

Employers can make equal rights for women a bigger priority (and demonstrate their support) by:

Extending equal pay for equal work – The wage gap was 23% in 2009, meaning the average American women was paid 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. How do the female employees in your company fare? More important, do you have a method for determining the fair market rate for any given job? Your company – and the women in it – may benefit from a fresh approach that updates job descriptions, assesses skill and responsibilities for each job, and ensures consistent application of rates and salaries.

Evaluating employee training, development and promotion opportunities – How are employees selected to participate in training programs or lead special projects and task forces? How many women, versus men, are in management positions due to your company’s investment in their growth and development? It’s important that the women in your company are targeted for career-building opportunities as frequently as the men. High-quality training enables your staff, particularly those who are taking on new or expanded roles, to be more versatile and increase their contributions to the company.

Preventing workplace harassment and discrimination – Of course you have a company policy that prohibits harassment based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability and/or any other legally protected status. But what are you doing to reinforce it and cultivate a positive, respectful corporate culture? You should give every employee and manager a copy of your company’s anti-harassment policy at the time of hire and at least once a year thereafter. You should also conduct periodic training to build awareness and strengthen your position against all forms of harassment and discrimination. Don’t assume managers and employees “know better,” especially when it comes to the finer points of proper workplace conduct.

Offering flexible options for a greater work/life balance – Employees are more stressed than ever, juggling increasingly heavier workloads and the demands of home. And since women are the traditional caregivers of children and aging parents, they tend to feel this push/pull more acutely. The good news is that workplace flexibility benefits both employees and employers by improving retention, boosting productivity and reducing burnout. Whether letting employees telecommute, work part time or leave early one day a week, be open to flexible arrangements that give employees more of what they want most: time.

Paid sick leave gets a healthy boost in Seattle

Seattle, a city famous for its coffee, alternative music scene and three seasons of rain just added another distinction to its list. This week, the Seattle City Council approved a bill requiring businesses with at least five employees to provide paid sick leave, starting in September 2012.

This makes Seattle the third city in the U.S. (after San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) to mandate paid sick days for employees to care for themselves or a family member when ill. The amount of paid sick days depends on the size of the business, as follows:

  • 5-49 employees: at least five days
  • 50-249 employees: at least seven days
  • 250+ employees: at least nine days

Businesses with fewer than five employees are exempt, as well as businesses less than two years old. Otherwise, workers can start using their accrued paid time off after a six-month waiting period.

As you would expect, some people are giving the bill a thumbs up while others are less than enthusiastic.Councilmember Nick Licata, who sponsored the legislation, feels the bill is a positive, both for businesses and employees:

"It's wrong that someone has to choose between going to work sick or losing pay," Licata says. Seattle Times

Supporters add that paid sick days protect public health, help increase worker productivity and reduce turnover.

The dissenters, however, are concerned that the new paid sick leave requirements will put a strain on businesses already struggling with a weakened economy. One business consultant cautioned, "You're making it more expensive to do business and more difficult to create jobs."

Where does your business stand regarding paid sick leave? Check out this previous post for additional insight.

DOL changes up its online enforcement database for easier, more open access

Today's post comes from G.Neil's HR News Weekly:

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently unveiled enhancements to its online enforcement database … all designed to improve public access and increase awareness of the department's enforcement activities.

Among the new features are a U.S. map with markers summarizing OSHA inspection and violation data for specific companies, as well as the ability to view individual inspection records and a company's enforcement history. The updated site also allows users to perform keyword searches; filter data by year, violations or penalties; and export search results into downloadable formats.

"These improvements to our online enforcement database are part of our commitment to open, transparent enforcement," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "By making this information available and easy to use, we're helping to ensure a level playing field for employers who follow the law."

See for yourself! Visit the updated site here .

Time-management tips for working smarter, not harder

As a hard-working professional, you’re so busy you probably don’t even have time to read this post. But here’s why you should:

With some tweaks to your time-management tactics, you can stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed and start gaining some much-needed control in the office.

Let’s take a few minutes (just a few!) to explore some valuable tips and tricks:

Did you know … 43% of Americans consider themselves disorganized, and 21% have missed vital work deadlines? Nearly half say disorganization forces them to work late at least two times a week.

What you can do:

  • Write everything down. Don’t keep your to-do list bottled up inside. Write everything down and post your list in a highly visible place on your desk.

  • Prioritize your tasks. Put your to-do list in order, with the most important tasks at the top of the list. Knowing your priorities will help you focus more on what matters and less on what could wait until later.

  • Group like tasks together. It’s easier and faster to do similar jobs while you’re in that particular mental mode. Read and answer email in batches; make several phone calls at one sitting; allocate part of the day for writing and editing reports.

  • Just do it. If something on your to-do list can be completed within two minutes, do it right then and there. Completing the easiest tasks first will quickly eliminate tasks from your list and make you feel like there’s less on your plate.

  • Find your best time to work. Everyone has a part of the day where they get the most done in the least amount of time. Work on the most important tasks during the time of the day when you are most productive. You’ll produce better work, faster.

  • Take a break. Give yourself a break from time to time. When you start feeling stressed or tired, get up and take a walk. Whether it’s to the break room or around the building, a quick walk will help clear your mind and improve your personal productivity back at your desk. 

Did you know … On a typical day, office workers are interrupted about seven times an hour (or 56 interruptions day), 80% of which are considered trivial?

What you can do:

  • Guard yourself. Avoid distractions at all cost. Shut the door to your office, schedule a meeting with yourself or put on headphones to block out any unnecessary distractions. 

  • Build in some “buffer time.” Inserting a few minutes of buffer time between scheduled meetings and tasks helps you deal with emergencies and interruptions without falling too far behind.

  • Anticipate and avoid time-wasting encounters. This means, for example, holding stand-up meetings that discourage people from hanging out afterward; meeting with colleagues in their work area, which makes it easier to depart; setting up a prearranged signal to have an assistant interrupt a long-winded visitor or telephone caller; and using a vacant office or other space to do important work without being interrupted.

  • Manage the email onslaught. Consider turning off the email notification feature, check email only when you’re ready (and at set times of the day) and manage client and coworker expectations regarding your response (a 24-hour turnaround time is acceptable in most cases.) In more demanding situations, simply let the emailer know you got the message and are working on an answer/response.

  • Be aware. Do your best to focus on one task at a time and to fully engage in the activity. The more “centered” and less distracted you are, the more you will be able to accomplish.


Compliance alert: New mandatory NLRA posting required by mid-November

As anticipated, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule requiring most private-sector employees to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by posting a notice. Effective November 14, 2011, the new NLRA posting requirement is mandatory!

Although the NLRB has not published the poster yet, it expects it to be available anytime on or before November 1. If you are already a Poster Guard® Compliance Protection member, you are guaranteed complete compliance with mandatory federal and state labor law postings through timely updates whenever a posting requirement changes. This means you will automatically receive the NLRA posting when it's released.

If you're not a Poster Guard® Compliance Protection member, sign up today to ensure compliance -- with the new mandatory NLRA posting and any future posting changes.

Remember: This new posting requirements applies to nearly all private-sector employers covered by the NLRA. Only agricultural, railroad, airline employers and the U.S. Postal Service are exempt at this time.

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