It's no surprise that having programs and policies to help employees — such as the ability to work from home — are beneficial. But Accenture's research also found that if companies take steps like improving maternity leave, without also improving paternity leave, the effort can still holding women back by providing them with an opportunity that renders them different from the wider workforce.
In contrast, improving overall parental leave and encouraging men to also take leave improves women's advancement. The study also finds that women are more likely to advance if they're involved with a women's network, which over 80 percent of respondents say their company does not offer.
Then there are a number of factors which Accenture uses to describe an "empowering environment," such as not asking employees to change their appearance or adhere to a dress code.
Sweet says it's key to create policies that are for both women and men – such as flex time, the flexibility to work remotely and parental leave. That way, women don't feel like they're different by opting in to policies like working from home. Rather, automatically making opportunities like parental leave available to everyone creates a workplace that's better for both men and women.
"That's what life feels like day to day on the ground at a company," says Sweet. "It's empowering you to do your job in a way that makes sense."
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