Smart Inclusion Series: Women In The Workplace

We’re excited to launch the Smart Inclusion series! To advocate for diversity outreach, recruiting, and hiring, we’re sitting down with our clients, vendor partners, and thought-leaders to discuss the trends, challenges, and solutions that employers can use to engage and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Sylvia Dahlby, DE&I Champion at SmartSearch, sat with Margarete Hester, Group HR Manager for Enterprise Holdings in the State of Hawai’i, to discuss women in the workplace as part of the Smart Inclusion series. Watch the conversation here or read more for the synopsis.

Women Face Unique Challenges to Finding Work-Life Balance

Over the last 24 months, we’ve seen a decrease in women’s representation in the workplace. In 2020, 59% of workers were women; however, the percentage of women in the workplace dropped to 57% in 2021. In addition, when looking at women in executive-level positions at Fortune 500 companies, only 8% percent of CEOs are women. Even though the concept of juggling work and home life is not new for the working woman, it is evident that women in the workplace struggle more today to balance the two due to the new working conditions created by COVID-19. Many women choose to come back to work part-time or not at all, making it harder to reach their goals to progress in their careers. 

What challenges do women face to overcome the setback from the pandemic and continue to progress in their careers?

    • Confidence vs. ego – Gender stereotypes play a role. Women in the office areSubscribe to SmartInclusion by SmartSearch perceived differently than men, especially when women speak up.


    • Women need to be confident in their opinions, even if it is different from others in the room.


    • For HR, the challenge is creating an environment for everyone to have a seat at the table and speak.


“It’s ok to sit back, observe, and watch the interactions between people and how they communicate with others; it will tell you how they connect and fit in,” says Margarete.

How has the pandemic affected women in the workplace?

    • Women have to balance their work-life with home-life as they care for the family. In some cultures similar to those in Hawai’i, families live in multi-generational households. Also, some children are going to school on a hybrid schedule, making it more difficult when women are required to be in the office as essential workers.


    • Many women are afraid to get sick if they have to go into the office or a customer-facing workplace.


Suggestions on how employers can better support women in the workplace?

    • Mentorship, having others who can build employees up, guiding them to fulfill their goals and reach the step in their career. 


    • Establish ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) for women and all employees to have a safe place to discuss overcoming obstacles. 


    • Establish an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for women to have a safe place to speak up on mental health issues.


There are many takeaways from this conversation on how we can create a more diverse and inclusive environment for women, especially those struggling with work-life balance, those wanting to progress in their careers, or those coming back to the workplace. We hope you enjoyed the interview and be on the lookout for the next conversation in our Smart Inclusion series.