Despite strides women have made in the workforce, not all companies treat their female employees with the respect they deserve. Before accepting an offer of employment, perform these three actions to sniff out the potential of joining a place that undervalues women.
1. Conduct research
Unhappy employees tend not to hold back, especially when they no longer work for the organization.
What type of comments appear on workplace review sites such as Glassdoor? Do multiple complaints possess a similar tone, such as that the place has a "boys' club" vibe or that women never seem to get promoted?
Check out the company's website and social media to glimpse into its values and how it wants the public to view the brand.
Who gets profiled in the "Who We Are" or "Our Team" sections? Is it all men, or are women well-represented? How long have people stayed with the company? (Happy employees tend to stick around.) Does the organization tout things such as work-life balance, flexible options, and diversity?
Perform some general online searches using the company's name paired with a word such as "women," "harassment," and "complaints." You might discover your potential employer made a list of top places for women to work, or you may come across its involvement in a nasty sexual discrimination case.
If you haven't already probed people in your network (including your LinkedIn connections) for information about the company, do so. Hearing that you're considering signing on the dotted line may encourage your connections to divulge positive or negative things they've heard or witnessed about the employer.
2. Ask questions
Take information-gathering into your own hands during interviews. Thoughtful questions demonstrate your seriousness about the position — and provide answers regarding matters of importance to women.
- Get an idea of whether or not women are promoted, valued, and empowered by asking, "Could you tell me about the senior leadership at the company?" or saying, "I'd love to know more about the management team in the (fill in your area) department."
- Learn about the work ethic encouraged by the company as well as the organization's potential family-friendliness through questions such as, "What is the typical schedule like for this role?" and "What sort of flexible work options are available?" You may discover the company supports arrangements that help employees juggle personal and professional obligations. Or, you may find you'll have a relatively set schedule or be asked to work at all hours.
- Provide the chance for the interviewer to potentially discuss issues such as parental leave and other family-friendly policies with an all-encompassing question such as "How does the company support work-life balance?"
3. Keep your eyes and ears open to subtle signs
Some employers make a point of stressing their appreciation of and support for female employees. That action in and of itself can be a good indication that the company thinks about issues such as diversity and equal opportunities for all.
Realize, however, that the opposite doesn't happen. Female candidates likely will not encounter an employer who plainly announces that it pays women less or rarely assigns them to handle top projects.
Look and listen for clues that the environment may be less than ideal for women. Do the female interviewers and other women employees you meet talk excitedly about the company and seem happy to be there? (If you haven't met any women, that itself could be a red flag.) Do cubicles contain family photos, pictures drawn by children, or other items suggesting an atmosphere where employees think about more than just work?
Reynolds offers this less conventional way to gain some insight, "If you're interviewing on-site, ask to use the restroom. The way a company maintains a women's restroom, and even how they provide restrooms — for women, men, or gender-neutral options — says a lot about how they approach even the small details about what it means to be a whole person at work."
If you're being interviewed by multiple people (men and women), Reynolds suggests thinking about what the dynamic is like between these colleagues. Who does most of the talking or provides most of the answers?
Another thing to consider: Are the questions posed to you appropriate? Hiring managers overly interested in your spouse, intention to have children, and current family situation are not only judging whether your personal life may interfere with your job; they are delving into illegal territory.
As you make your decision regarding employment, turn to one last source: your gut. Never dismiss a nagging sense that something about the place doesn't feel right or makes you uncomfortable.