It’s been a continuous uphill battle for women in terms of being valued equally in the workplace—having the flexibility to pursue careers and take care of their families too, feeling safe in a harassment-free work environment, and earning salaries that are on par with those of their male colleagues.

However, a recent report based on a LinkedIn survey of 5,000 human resources professionals and hiring managers (enhanced by behavioural data analysis) reveals four new trends that show positive signs for women in the workplace and could give a big boost to the quest for workplace gender parity.

According to the report, the top trends HR professionals believe are transforming the workforce are:

  1. Soft skills competency (91%)
  2. Workplace flexibility (72%)
  3. A safer, harassment-free, inclusive environment (72%)
  4. Pay transparency (53%)

Each of these trends has a direct impact on how women experience the workplace and I am pleased to see HR have them on their agenda.

In this two-part series, I’m going to explore how I think these trends could impact women’s work lives, along with any challenges I see in their execution. I’ll also talk about the role HR professionals play in creating a future workplace that turns these trends into benefits not only for working women, but also for the firms they work for. But first, let’s take a deeper look at each of the four trends.

The four trends explored

The term soft skills brings to mind empathy, collaboration, and communication. Speaking generally, these particular skills are often more developed and recognised in women. As automation becomes more pervasive in the work environment, the importance of soft skills is amplified. The growing demand for them increases the value women bring to the workplace. These skills will become invaluable as we will work more with “machines.”

The desire for workplace flexibility is by no means limited to women. As the gig economy expands and more millennials enter the workforce, the demand for flexibility in work style and schedules is becoming more commonplace among all workers. However, until recently, women have been the group most impacted by inflexible work schedules that made high demands on time and limited a woman’s ability to give equal attention to responsibilities at work and at home. This dynamic has even greater impact as women progress up the organisational hierarchy and has derailed many a promising leadership career. More flexibility in the workplace for men and women will create greater opportunities for women to fully pursue their careers and take care of their families too.

The #MeToo movement has shone a very bright light on the harassment so many women have experienced in the workplace and elsewhere. This is an extremely serious issue that every organisation must address from a policy, cultural, and educational perspective. The good news is, the movement has given a much stronger voice to those who’ve experience harassment and forced companies to take a zero-tolerance approach to harassment. Women’s ability to make a full contribution depends on them feeling safe and valued in the workplace.

Gender pay disparity has been enabled by the absence of pay transparency. Most organisations are very secretive about how much they pay their employees, which has made it very difficult for women to make the case that they’re not being paid the same as men. Effective transparency will enable companies to understand where the gaps are and articulate a plan for closing them.

In my next post, I’ll explain the role HR professionals play in amplifying these trends within their firms, as well as some of the challenges they may face in doing so.

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