Over the past several decades, women’s rights, greater equality in the workplace (and elsewhere, of course), and overall women empowerment have gained even more traction than ever before, enabling women to build careers on par with their male colleagues. More women embrace the waves of innovation to become entrepreneurs and change the dynamics of modern-day leadership. Companies are carefully looking into diversity issues to ensure gender equality in a range of positions, not just for the sake of statistical satisfaction.
Even more importantly, women now have access to legal information and guidance on their employment rights, which means you can learn which questions are best asked before you take on a new role, and what kind of answers you should accept – as opposed to those which are unacceptable. As a career woman, you should know where you stand legally and what perks, benefits, and insurance your position comes with. Here are a few vital topics and women’s rights to cover while you’re building your career one day at a time.
Internal policies against discrimination
Knowing those essential laws is always recommendable before you set out to build your career. However, you should also be mindful of corporate regulations specific to your industry, and even more so of the rules that are applied differently within each business. For instance, many companies working with Millennials often introduce very specific, flexible conditions to make the workplace more engaging. Even in such highly-flexible environments, you should know exactly what to expect.
That said, you should always read the rulebook in detail, and ask any questions that come to mind. If you notice that there’s a missing clause on specific actions you should take in case you experience any form of discrimination, you’ve encountered a red flag that you should address. Every company is required to have a clear protocol in place, and you need to understand what your actions should be in case you do experience discrimination.
Evaluate compensation and benefits
As inspired as you might be by the interview and even if you feel excited about starting work as soon as possible, you should always read the fine print of the contract, and take your time to ask questions about your compensation, benefits, and superannuation. To avoid confusion and misunderstandings, you can talk to experienced superannuation lawyers in your area and prepare a set of questions for your employer based on their advice and guidance.
This is a sensitive matter, and you want to know what would happen in case of a work-related accident, what kind of funds you’d have access to, and if your potential position includes a range of perks and benefits.
Recognize a hostile work environment
Having a sense of humor is not an excuse to resort to lewd language or comment on a colleague’s appearance in a semi-sexual context. That said, you might have thick skin, you might have grown up with two brothers, you might have a black belt in karate – that still doesn’t mean that you should shrug off any form of inappropriate behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable.
The key here is that the behavior causing you to feel this way is pervasive in order to be legally considered some form of harassment or discrimination. A single slip-up is typically just an awkward choice of words. If you find it difficult to do your job, and the person keeps making comments, jokes, or simply noise that prevents you from working seamlessly, you should recognize the moment to talk to someone in charge.
Get to know the equal pay rights
Legally speaking, you’re likely already familiar with the specific laws in your own country promising equal pay for you as a woman in the workplace. However, you should still bear in mind that in many instances, women earn the famous 80 cents on the dollar of their male counterparts, in the same positions, for the same work done. In some situations, this gap might have a reasonable explanation, such as differences in education, qualifications, and the like.
In others, however, it can be based on simple discrimination and bias. This is why discussing your salary at the final interview should be fair game, and you should be able to learn about growth opportunities and know where you stand with a potential employer pay-wise.
Quid pro quo, Clarice
Even if your position is independent by nature, spending time with your superiors at the office includes interactions. They’ll give you assignments, grant you access to specific projects and tasks, and invite you to meetings where your participation will be of value. If during any of those interactions you notice that your boss is implying that your role in any of the abovementioned processes requires you to give back anything other than the work that you already do – especially if the implication is of sexual nature – it’s time to react.
These workplace situations are often called “quid pro quo” harassment, and you should by no means sit idly by and ignore such comments. Even if you’ve started the interaction by asking for a raise or a role in a project, and your boss imposes an inappropriate request, you are not to blame. It’s time to talk to your HR.
Even though most businesses take excellent care of their employees, which means that they naturally abide by all the legal prerequisites protecting women in the workplace from any form of discrimination or abuse, you should gather the right knowledge beforehand. Some behaviors might be condoned at certain offices despite being inappropriate, and you can recognize and rectify the situation simply by knowing and calling upon your rights.
These are certainly not all possible scenarios you should be mindful of, but they are by far the most common and often most difficult to handle. Use the knowledge to build your career in a fair and equal workplace.