These Tech Companies Are Leading the Change Needed for Closing the Gender Gap
In the age of the #MeToo movement, the 100 Best Workplaces for Women have demonstrated that the office can be a refuge for personal dignity, respect, and hope. This year, Great Place to Work surveyed more than 540,000 U.S. employees about aspects of work life that influence careers and individual employee experiences. They found that the 100 Best Workplaces for Women give women equal opportunity for career advancement regardless of their level or title, relentlessly pursue inclusion and equity in recruitment, pay, and promotion, as well as set a higher bar on benefits for all employees.
Based on employee surveys about what they want at work, Great Place to Work, in partnership with Fortune, has ranked 75 large companies and 25 small to medium-sized companies that have eased the path for women: they have a high representation of women in their workforce, including management and the C-suite, and their employees consistently describe a supportive workplace culture. We paid close attention to the experience of women in comparison to their male colleagues, as well as the quality of their work experience at every level in the company.
The companies that top the lists are perennial Best Workplaces for Women due to a high percentage of women in leadership roles and employees who buy into the company culture.
This year, Ultimate Software, headquartered in Weston, Fla., is the No. 1 large company on the list. The company steadily attracts technology recruits from Silicon Valley and beyond to South Florida with unlimited paid time off, health and dental benefits and life insurance premiums fully paid by the company, as well as unique female leadership programs, resulting in a 50/50 female to male employee ratio. As chief financial officer Felicia Alvaro explains, “The cost is minor compared to the outcome. We have really low turnover and attrition is somewhere around 5 to 6%.”
The front-runner in the newly-established small to medium category is Orange County, Calif.-based Roth Staffing Companies. Roth recently spent millions to increase parental leave, implement new equitable salary and bonus structures, expand 401k benefits, and introduce a flexible work schedule where employees can take one day off every other week. Roth’s support for employees runs so deep that manager Amy Juneau says, “I continued to receive bonuses and a paycheck while I was home with my daughter [on maternity leave]. I was able to get promoted within three months of returning.”
Four major companies also joined the top 10 in 2018, making considerable improvements in their rankings. Finance and HR software company Workday (moving from No. 24 to 3), Hyatt Hotels (climbing from No. 65 to No. 6), Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (from No. 22 to 7) and CRM software leader Salesforce (from No. 23 to 9).
This year, there are even more IT, financial services, and professional services companies on the list. This is especially important as those industries have historically been difficult places for women to thrive.
Kim Larsen, a human resources manager at Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (No. 16 on the small to medium company list) lays out the stakes. “It is unfortunately more and more apparent how important it is that we have policies in place that safeguard employees from harassment and retaliation. Women are most frequently the victims of this type of mistreatment and we as an organization have committed to ensuring work is a safe space for all.”
The 100 Best Workplaces for Women provide leadership and growth opportunities for employees at all levels. Even in unquestionably female-friendly company cultures, development and leadership programs like education reimbursement and mentoring programs continue to be crucial. Bright Horizons Family Solutions (No. 41 among large companies) is educating some of the U.S. workforce’s most vulnerable employees by offering free tuition, books and fees for a degree in early education to all full-time employees.
Workday sets a superlative example with six women in the C-suite (the CFO, CIO, CMO, Chief HR Officer, Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Diversity Officer are all female). Accounting and professional services firm Plante Moran (No. 50 among the large companies) instituted a Women in Leadership program that increased female representation in the newest cohort of partners to 41 percent. Why? Management consulting partner Judy Wright says, “We found a retention cliff just before the senior associates were getting promoted to partner, even though we have one of the lowest turnover rates for CPA firms in the country.”
The 100 Best Workplaces for Women especially push the boundaries in hiring, pay and promotion practices. Recruiting software company Lever (No. 13 among small to medium companies) removes photos from the recruiting process, bans salary negotiations for new hires (where women often lose ground), recalibrates pay twice a year and writes unintimidating, impact focused, job descriptions, resulting in a 42% female technical workforce. Rebekah Bastian, Vice President of Community and Culture at real estate IT company Zillow Group (No.20 on the large company list) says, “We are proud that on average, women at Zillow Group earn $1.01 for every dollar a man makes in comparable roles.” And as seen in the news, Salesforce spent $8.7 million over the last three years to equalize pay by gender globally, along with race in the US.
Getting performance reviews right also affects how women do in the workplace. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (No. 67 among the large companies) bakes its values into employee evaluations. “Our guiding behaviors speak to things like ‘I accept and value difference among people. I serve with a compassionate spirit and treat others with dignity and respect.’ All of us are held accountable to them,” says Carol Ross-Spang, chief human resources officer.
Natalia Pane, the COO of nonprofit research organization Child Trends (small to medium company No. 9) says they quit them altogether. “We got rid of performance reviews. We read the data and the data don’t support using them. We eliminated the entire annual rating system and instead focus exclusively on goal setting..”
The 100 Best Workplaces for Women offer not only extensive benefits for every type of family, but they also allow every worker to take advantage of them. Annie Lin, director of employee experience at Lever says, “With our leave policy you could be a mother, father, non-birthing parent, polyamorous, single parent, multiple parents, gay couple, any arrangement, we designed a policy that is equally inclusive.”
BH Management (No. 34 among the large companies) offers 60 percent paid leave to care for any ailing family member, parent, child or any other relative. BH President Joanna Zabriskie notes, “We’ve had conversations with clients about our increasing cost per unit. But to reduce turnover and keep great employees, part of that is offering best in class benefits.”
Noshua Watson is a contributor to Great Place to Work and a former reporter for Fortune. She holds a PhD in management strategy from INSEAD and works as a freelance analytics consultant.