By: Georgene Huang
Every year, the women of the Fairygodboss community (disclaimer: a company I co-founded) anonymously review their employers and as a result of their feedback, companies are ranked by female employees based on how they rate for job satisfaction and gender equality.
This year the following employers were included in the top 25 best companies for women:
- Boston Consulting Group
- General Electric
- Salesforce, Deloitte and PwC (tied)
- Vanguard Group and Apple (tied)
- American Express Company
- Kaiser Permanente
- Thomson Reuters
- Time Inc.
- Cisco Systems
- Google and Bloomberg (tied)
- McKinsey & Company
- Wells Fargo
- Goldman Sachs
- JP Morgan Chase & Co
- Target Corporation and The Home Depot (tied)
- Dow Jones
- Liberty Mutual Group
- Intel Corporation
Most of these companies are well-known American corporate brands, but whatever opinion you may hold of their products and services, the reasons for why they are good places for women to work is probably less clear. This is unfortunate because the reasons women enjoy working at these companies is probably the most important takeaway of the list.
Reading women’s job reviews of these employers, one sees certain patterns across industries, professions and employers. Not all of these patterns paint a happy picture of what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. However, among the best employers certain striking patterns emerge that all other companies can learn from.
Virtually all of these employers have invested significant resources in employee and diversity initiatives that specifically support women. Whether it’s adopting better-than-average maternity and parental leave policies, launching formal sponsorship and mentorship programs targeting high-potential women, returnships or workplace flexibility policies that allow women to adjust their workload to work-life balance needs and life events, these investments cumulatively make a difference.
Interestingly, it doesn’t appear just to make a difference to those women who actually take advantage of the programs personally. These investments also matter to the women who will one day do so or benefit from the presence of more senior women who have greater company tenure / retention as a result. In other words, everyone (including men) at the company is watching and it impacts the culture of a company when these programs exist.
Sometimes people observe to me that new or improved policies that women tend to support or need, are simply not enough on their own. While I agree, I think this is somewhat of a reductive point. Obviously it is true that policies and programs are not enough if the culture doesn’t support, or even stigmatizes, their use. For example, it doesn’t advance women’s standing in the workplace if only mothers take parental leave when fathers or partners don’t take their full allocation, or if making full use of a flexibility policy is viewed as something for someone less committed to their job.
However, I believe policies and programs are a necessary, even if not sufficient, condition for a culture that’s truly supportive of women. Certainly it’s not simply enough to state values and repeat pledges. But putting resources into administering and paying for benefits is a real necessity for those trying to move the needle forward for gender parity on their management teams or even throughout their organizations.
It may in some cases be “easier” to implement a policy (which is about spending money and executing logistics) than to foment a significant change in culture (which is often set by the personalities and attitudes of individuals within leadership roles). But it need not be an either/or choice. This is not simply my opinion; it is reflected in the recognition by many women in their job reviews that things may not (yet) be perfect at their companies but that “there is improvement” or “things are getting better” or “the culture is moving in the right direction.”
Effort, progress and continuous improvement may all sound like squishy concepts but however intangible it might seem, to women in our community, it accounts for a lot more than you might suspect when it comes to why women say their workplaces make them happy. In other words, for better or worse, no perfection is necessary. But working to improve the workplace for women is a big deal, and also why these top rated companies should be celebrated.