Although women make up roughly half the workforce, complete gender equity in the workplace is still a long way off. If current trends persist, on average women won’t receive equal pay until 2059, and that progress is even slower for women of color.
Even with the rise of sites like Glassdoor and Monster, many women are still left wondering exactly how prospective employers handle gender-specific issues in the workplace like family leave and pay equity.
To find out, female job seekers are turning to Fairygodboss, a job review site exclusively for women. The site provides crowd-sourced intel on how female-friendly company policy is at thousands of businesses.
The 2-year-old start-up just released its 2017 rankings of the best companies where women are happiest. Companies with the top rankings:
- Boston Consulting Group
- General Electric
- Salesforce, Deloitte, PwC
- Vanguard Group, Apple
- American Express
- Kaiser Permanente
- Thomson Reuters
The rankings were based on the responses from almost 15,000 women about overall job satisfaction, gender equity and likelihood of recommending their company to another woman.
The data is pulled from the anonymous job reviews that Fairygodboss uses to create company profiles.
“One of the reasons we have this ranking is because our social mission is to improve the workplace environment for women,” said Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss.
“Our intent is for employers to learn from what companies at the top are doing right.” she continued.
Huang said she sees companies rise in the ranks when they make a concerted effort to promote more women into leadership and improve work-life balance.
At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), this year’s winner, hiring and promoting more women has been a priority for more than a decade. In just five years they were able to increase the number of women in their North American firms by 70% and raise women’s retention rates to be equal or higher than men’s.
“Getting women in the door is the first step, and then we really focus on ensuring that we are supporting women along the way,” said Michelle Russell, partner lead for Women@BCG, a program focused on improving women’s experience at the company.
BCG was able to close the retention gap through programs like Women@BCG and the Apprenticeship in Action initiative, a direct response to feedback from women who said they were dissatisfied with the level of mentorship available to them. Russell said the company also stepped up its recruiting of women and improved flexibility policies to make the company culture more inclusive.
Gender equity is an uphill battle
Women, particularly women of color, face a unique set of obstacles in almost every industry.
Men are 30% more likely to be promoted than women, which results in a disproportionate amount of male executives, according to a survey from Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org and the McKinsey consulting group.
“When women say their company doesn’t treat men and women equally, that’s the No. 1 thing they point out,” Huang said.
BCG found that the lack of mentorship was one of the major factors contributing to gender disparities in senior management. Through the Apprenticeship in Action initiative, the company was able to boost female promotion rates by 22% among senior managers.
Russell explained that while surrounding pieces like flex time and equal pay are important, improving the day to day experience is crucial to retaining women in leadership.
Another issue that has drawn national attention is the wage gap. On Equal Pay Day this year, women still only made 82% of what men are paid. For African-American and Hispanic women, that percentage drops to 68% and 62% respectively, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
The wage gap not only exists within occupations but also between occupations. Men tend to dominate higher paying jobs that require similar qualifications to lower paying, female dominated fields.
Huang said women bring up equal pay slightly less frequently than unequal promotion because the information is a lot less visible. Women simply don’t always know if they’re being paid fairly.
Women also often bring up their employer’s family leave policy in their job reviews. Fairygodboss was actually born out of the challenges Huang faced when she was two months pregnant and hiding it from her employers.
“During my interviews I really wanted to ask about maternity policy and what the path for leadership was for women, but I felt like I couldn’t for fear of looking less committed to my job,” she said.
When Huang couldn’t find any helpful information online about company policy related to women, she and colleague Romy Newman created Fairygodboss.
Improving parental leave and flex time policies is key to supporting women and men in the workplace, according to Russell.
Birth mothers at BCG can take up 16 weeks of family leave, and any employee can take two months of unpaid time off with full benefits. Employees can use this “Time for You” for anything, whether it be extending family leave or learning how to horseback ride.
“I wanted to take a step back, so I took a leave to nanny my best friend’s 3-month-old in Juneau, Alaska,” said Russell. She used this time to reflect on her future at BCG and decide if she wanted a family of her own.
When she eventually did have children, Russell capitalized on BCG’s flex time policy to help integrate her work and family life.
“The firm has always been really supportive,” she said. “And the flexibility extends well beyond when you have small children.”
At any point, employees have the option to work at 60% or 80% capacity while receiving reduced salary and tenure credit. Russell worked at 80% capacity for about six months after her first daughter was born before coming back full time. She recently returned to 80% capacity to spend more time with her two kids and her best friend’s daughter, who is now 12, while they’re on summer vacation.
Although big companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix have publicly improved their paid family leave policy, millions of Americans still aren’t offered any time off after the birth or adoption of a child.
In fact, 1 in 4 women go back to work just 10 days after childbirth according to a report from PL+US Paid Leave for the United States. The Family Medical Leave Act gives women 12 weeks job-protected unpaid leave, but only 12% of U.S. non-government workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Department of Labor.
When it comes to family leave, women face consequences no matter what they do. Researchers at the University of Exeter found that women who take maternity leave were seen as “significantly less competent,” and those who don’t were seen as less caring parents.
Still, Fairygodboss’ message is a hopeful one.
“There are things you can do, there are ways you can improve,” Huang said. “We just want that to be the major takeaway.”