What do you get when you gather poets, workplace experts, women advocates, employers, politicians, journalists, a musician, and a New Age guru in one place in order to help solve an enduring national crisis?
A much needed reframing of a discussion that has gone on for more than 50 years.
The issue was low-income women and the gathering was held to debut and discuss The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink.
“This brought up an issue that had not been talked about comfortably for a long time,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute, one of the authors of the report and a speaker at the event held at the Newseum Wednesday. “This reframes the discussion, taking it to another level.”
The overall theme was to bring many different voices into the debate and find ways to think outside the box when it comes to fighting poverty.
A much-needed voice that we rarely hear from in this debate are employers!
Galinsky’s chapter in the report — coauthored by the Institute’s James T. Bond and Eve Tahmincioglu — and her Huffington Post piece this week, point to the role employers can play in helping lift up low-income women while at the same time reaping the bottom-line rewards of a more engaged and productive workforce.
Here’s a video of Galinsky’s panel at the Shriver Report event, and opening for the discussion is a poet turned nuclear researcher Lovely Umayam.
“It is clear to me, from years of research on the low-income workforce that all four — governmental programs, the individual, the economy and the workplace — have to be seen as change engines,” she writes in the Huffington Post.
So, we’re not going to let you leave this post without thinking about how you all can become change engines.
Here’s what you can do.
Employers: The institute has identified seven characteristics of an effective and flexible workplace. Many of these items will cost little to no money.
- Adequate benefits
- Job autonomy
- Learning opportunities and challenges
- Supervisor support for job success
- Supervisor support for meeting personal and family needs
- Culture of respect and trust
- Workplace flexibility
These factors—what we call an Effective Workplace—may be largely absent from the broader discussions on the war of poverty but that’s a big mistake. Most are no cost, except for benefits; most can be easily implemented; and most help employers and employees alike in powerful ways. For example, they reduce the likelihood of stress and poorer health and increase the likelihood of job satisfaction, engagement, and retention – key issues when it comes to the low-income workforce.
Employees: There are things low-income women, and women stuck in dead-end jobs, can do. Here’s are tips from a Today Show story I wrote that can help you:
- Find out if your employer offers on the job training, educational opportunities, or tuition assistance and take advantage of them as much as you can.
- Make a business case for more workplace flexibility—describing to your supervisor how it will help the organization and you. Make sure there is a plan to assess the impact of the flexibility so that you and your supervisor have a clear understanding of what will be seen as a success.
- If you have a less supportive supervisor, see if you can find a way to report to someone who will help you succeed on the job and is supportive of your family or personal life.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for work adaptations that may not seem commonplace, especially when it comes to child care issues. Northwest Lineman College, a power-line operator training company, has allowed low-income women to bring newborns to the office, and has even set up playpens when needed.
- Take advantage of employee assistant programs, or other such benefits, if available through your employer. These can provide help coping with stress and even offer assistance figuring out your finances. 1-800 Contacts, for example, offers employees financial training workshops.
- Find a mentor on the job, or ask about getting additional coaching to help you handle tasks you may be new to. Low-income employees at Educational Data Systems advancing in their careers at the workplace development consulting firm have access to individual coaching to help them adjust to job challenges.
- Even if the culture of respect and trust is lacking, try to treat others the way you would like to be treated and hopefully, your way of being will spread to others.
- If you are looking for a job, think of these characteristics of effective workplaces in your search. You can also check out the winners of our effective and flexible workplace awards, part of a project called When Work Works, a partnership between the Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management. To be a winner, a representative group of employees in the organization are surveyed and the two-thirds of the winning score comes from employees—so you can consider them employee rated. Here’s a link to information about the awards.
All of us: Maria Shriver outlines ten things we can all do in her report –
- Get The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink at www.ShriverReport.org. Read it, discuss it, implement it, and pass it on.
- Get smart. Build a stable foundation for your future by putting college before kids. Women with only a high school diploma are three to four times more likely to live on the financial brink than those with a college degree.
- Invest in yourself. Today’s women and girls need to think of themselves as providers in their families, not provided for. Increase your own earning power, learn about savings plans, and be financially savvy.
- Use your economic power. You can hold businesses accountable with your money. Be an informed and influential consumer by supporting companies that create a more conscious, caring, compassionate workplace for their employees.
- Engage men as allies. These issues are everyone’s issues. Fathers, sons, and brothers are part of the solution and many are poised to partner.
- Vote. But don’t give your vote away. Make candidates earn it. Vote for women and men who want to modernize the nation’s relationship to women and their families. Support laws that can add half-a-trillion dollars to the national economy by closing the wage gap.
- Be a 21st-century “boss,” even at home. Recognize the power you have to impact women. Provide benefits and workplace supports for your child care providers and people who help you with elder care. Offer sick days, be flexible with schedules, leave good tips for waitresses and room attendants when you travel, and educate yourself and your employees about government programs that can help.
- Finance women’s work. Invest in women entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations that support, promote, and respect modern American families. See a list of organizations and resources at www.ShriverReport.org.
- Mentor and motivate girls. Be a Life Ed teacher to the girls in your life. Teach them about the importance of making smart decisions—financial, personal, and educational—that enhance their self-esteem and their career prospects. Foster the mindset that girls must invest in themselves and that they have the power to succeed.
- Be an architect of change. We can push back from the brink.
Here’s a segment on the Today Show for The Shriver Report where experts, including Ellen Galinsky, took questions from women looking to realize the American Dream: