- Opportunities that are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement
- Opportunities with high-impact potential for the business
- Opportunities to enhance women’s economic empowerment
Institutionalizing gender equity
Institutionalize commitments to ensure gender integration efforts are successful across the company:
- Establish corporate-level commitment to gender equity, and clearly communicate this to managers and staff.
- Have a company plan for gender diversity, including targets and measurement systems.
- Report externally on company plan for gender diversity and targets, then report out on progress towards those targets (e.g. through an annual report).
- Collect disaggregated HR data on recruitment, hiring, pay, promotion, and retention by gender (and other categories such as race and ethnicity).
- Review and revise all HR policies to contain gender-inclusive language and ensure gender equality.
- Assess and revise internal and external communications to contain gender neutral and or gender equitable language and photos.
- Train managers on gender equity, unconscious bias, and how policies may be used differently by men and women (e.g., flexible work or leave).
Recruitment & hiring
Implement equitable recruitment and hiring processes that attract qualified women and enable them to secure positions:
- Remove bias from job descriptions and listings. Wording can impact whether more women or men apply; research shows that “masculine” adjectives like superior, competitive, determined, and expert can deter female candidates. All qualifications should directly tie to duties performed on the job, e.g., for physically demanding roles, describe specific tasks like climbing a ladder rather than encouraging the “physically fit” to apply.
- Develop outreach programs with educational institutions that lead to attraction of both male and female candidates to build a robust pipeline of talent (e.g., through scholarships, university visits, apprenticeships).
- Post job advertisements in a variety of media so that both men and women are equally likely to view the job posting (e.g., radio, signboards near markets, announcements in local community group meetings).
- Consider conducting blind resume screening by removing names before review.
- Define objective hiring criteria and get hiring teams on the same page ahead of time to prevent unspoken or subjective criteria from appearing late in the evaluation stages.
- Design selection processes to reduce bias through behavior-based interviewing and diverse panels of interviewers.
- Screen for qualities that may be important for sales / the position (e.g., motivation, ability to thrive in customer interactions) as opposed to education and job history to avoid excluding talented candidates. Socio-cultural norms and lower education levels may have precluded women from typical precursor jobs.
- Ask potential hires the same questions. Develop an interview script that is used for each candidate for a certain job.
- Prohibit inquiring about the status or plans of the following in job applications or during interview processes: marriage, pregnancy, or care responsibilities
- Offer a trial period to test whether the role would be a good fit. This can reduce costs associated with training and retention as only those who are more qualified and committed receive continued support.
Professional development & skill building
Develop, motivate, and retain organizational talent with equitable opportunities to build skills and advance:
- Provide ongoing training and field-based mentorship opportunities to build skills related to sales and customer interaction. Ensure all professional development and career advancement opportunities meet the needs of, and are accessible to and used by both men and women.
- Tailor training content and delivery style to female agents to increase effectiveness of knowledge/skills transfer. Consider: timing, location, language of instruction, in-person vs. remote (to help female employees overcome mobility and time constraints), provision of transportation and childcare, and use of female trainers (including in training videos).
Facilitate ongoing support and networking opportunities among female agents:
- Pair new hires with a sponsor to advocate for their interest and make their accomplishments visible to higher-level staff.
- Implement a mentorship program, assessing young workers’ needs and matching them with relevant male or female mentors. Sensitize both mentors and mentees on the purpose and appropriate dynamics of the relationship, and create incentives for participation.
- Create conversation/connection opportunities with female role models. Highlighting successful women in leadership positions can attract female applicants and encourage current agents to take on leadership roles.
Employee evaluation & promotion
- Assess employee performance based on standard decisive factors and metrics that are consistent across other employees in similar job functions. Ensure managers maintain a regular (i.e. monthly or bi-monthly) performance log for each direct-report.
- Use a uniform evaluation cycle. Conducting performance reviews of all employees simultaneously helps supervisors dedicate ample time to write good evaluations and ensure consistency among all employees.
- Ensure managers are given adequate time to do their evaluations, as the more rushed people are, the more they rely on stereotypes.
- Establish and implement inclusive, gender-equitable succession plans (ensuring succession plans including gender-neutral selection criteria and plans to develop candidates).
Eliminate pay gaps between positions of comparable levels:
- Do not ask for previous salary history or have applicants name a salary when hiring.
- Create narrow pay bands, as women are less likely to negotiate the first offer.
- Consider how payment mechanisms can meet the needs of female and male agents. For example, while male sales agents might be more motivated by higher commission with a relatively low base salary, female sales agents may prefer a more stable base salary with lower commission levels.
- If possible, implement pay equity processes grounded in statistical analysis with annual reviews, including bonuses or commissions. Control for observable factors such as level of position, years of experience, and/or education.
- Provide managers with pay data for the organization, benchmarks for their male and female supervisees, and if applicable, market information on employment in the sector.
- Inform employees of low, median, and high pay ranges for particular roles.
- Implement formal remediation protocols to ensure pay equity processes are implemented appropriately and that manager discretion doesn’t promote inequality.
- Provide direct payments into the bank accounts of female agents, assisting women to establish their own accounts if necessary. When payments are given to a household (in cash or transferred to the head of household’s account), men often have control over spending decisions. However, making payments directly to women enables them to make decisions around how the money they earn is spent and potentially increases satisfaction and retention.
Flexible work and care
- Offer flexible work opportunities to accommodate work-life demands of men and women. Options will vary based on the demands of the position and could include: flexible start times, compressed work week, and/or telecommuting or working from home.
- Measure and track proportion of employees who are and are not using flexible work options, and disaggregate by gender.
- Encourage managers to make use of benefits to demonstrate their acceptance to their teams (such as flexible work, parental leave, family and medical leave, and paid-time off).
- Support access to child and dependent care, such as provide on-site childcare, reserve reduced-rate spaces in local childcare centers, and/or offer subsidies or vouchers to preferred child and elder care providers.
Offer flexible work arrangements for pregnant women and mothers who travel for work:
- In cases where a job may potentially be harmful or physically challenging for pregnant women, allow a modified schedule or temporary job reassignment at full pay, and proactively communicate that there will be no penalty upon returning to previous role.
- Particularly for mothers, provide flexibility in travel requirements, sales activities, and scheduling meetings.
- Consider allowing staff to travel with their children and children’s caregivers to enable female agents to balance work and care responsibilities.
Health and safety considerations
Support working parents/caregivers and general employee health in order to retain talent and ensure operational consistency across life transitions:
- Provide health care benefits (ensure meets minimum requirement of government).
- Have a paid maternity leave policy (ensure meets minimum requirement of government).
- Have a paid paternity leave policy (ensure meets minimum requirement of government).
- Establish return-to-work policies, providing a transition back to full-time work for parents returning from leave.
- Support new mothers’ return to work by providing a private rest area or lactation room for breastfeeding/pumping.
- Provide “family and medical leave” or comprehensive sick leave (ensure meets minimum requirement of government).
- Conduct equity and impact analysis of benefits, including usage and uptake of benefits disaggregated by gender.
- Provide options for insurance packages that cover the specific health needs of women (e.g., gynecology, maternal health, reproductive health, cancer screens, domestic violence treatment).
Consider safety and transportation needs for work-related travel:
- Consider safety needs of female agents traveling to sell products and interact with customers. For example, have male and female colleague(s) travel together when/if needed (e.g., in collecting payments from male customers who have not been paying).
- Provide field staff with appropriate and safe modes of transportation (e.g., bus, car, motorbikes, bicycles) – ensuring that women are consulted on decision.
Addressing gender-based violence & harassment
Address sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence at work to foster a healthy climate where workers are safe and productive:
- Develop a strong sexual harassment policy and make employees and contractors aware of it. This can include a definition of sexual harassment, and a statement about the company’s commitment to providing a “zero-tolerance” workplace free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and violence. It should detail consequences for violators of the policy, potentially including termination and/or referral to law enforcement if appropriate, referencing any legislation on gender-based violence and/or workplace harassment.
- Research and include in the policy a local referral pathway for survivors of violence. The policy should provide direction on how to lodge sexual harassment complaints and identify which services are available for victims through the workplace and in the community. In addition, the policy should stipulate that complaints will be treated with utmost confidentiality and discretion.
- Include a whistleblower policy to reduce fear of retaliation, and raise awareness on how workers can use it to anonymously report instances of GBV and sexual harassment on the work site or in the community. It should state that preventing and addressing sexual harassment is the responsibility of all employees. It also should clarify protections and support for bystander employees who report incidents, as well as the process for action and follow up.
- Socialize the policy with all levels of workers and contractors, providing annual refresher training to permanent employees on zero-tolerance for all forms of violence (including engaging in sex-based harassment or acts of sexual exploitation of women and girls while on business travel). Ensure information is widely disseminated in local language(s) using images or audio/video explanations where literacy levels are low.
- Train all new workers and employees on what constitutes and causes different manifestations of GBV, including sex-based harassment and sexual exploitation. Include bystander training, which instills strategies and skills in coworkers to intervene and deter GBV and harassment.
- Implement a confidential grievance mechanism for victims of GBV/harassment that involves third party reporting systems and transparent consequences. If promoting a hotline, provide employees with phone access or small denominations of mobile “airtime” where needed.
- Train resource personnel who can help handle the process. Form a confidential committee with “diagonal” representation (not just senior HR) to improve accountability in investigating and responding to GBV and harassment reports.
- To encourage others to use the grievance mechanism, regularly inform staff about resolved cases and any disciplinary action taken, omitting identifying details to preserve confidentiality.