In the News

Celebrating the Right to Vote and Your Business

This month we are celebrating 100 years of women’s votes in the United States. The ratification of the 19th Amendment was the result of women using influence innovation and courage to secure the right to vote. We are celebrating these women and their legacy with a look back at the Suffrage Movement and how it can inspire women business owners today, creating “Healthy Business” and a “Healthy You” for your employees.

For Women, By Women

The Suffrage Movement in America officially started at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. What followed was a decades-long campaign to win the hearts and minds of the American public and—more importantly—politicians. The 19th Amendment was narrowly passed in 1919 and finally added to the US Constitution on Aug. 26, 2020.

American suffragists were part of an international women’s rights movement that has its roots in the abolition movement and other social causes. Significant voices of Black abolitionists joined suffragists, but they were excluded from working with white women who would not secure their right to vote for another 45 years.

Suffragettes were also some of the first women business leaders in the United States. Although few owned businesses themselves, they used brand savvy, organizing and fundraising skills to power their movement. Many were wives of industrialists and were able to use their spheres of influence and wealth to power the movement. Some enterprising women even used the popularity of the movement to sell otherwise unrelated products like makeup.

As women business owners, we owe much to these early women’s rights activists. With the right to vote secured, women could finally seek public office and influence public policy. It also opened the doors to greater equality for women, including the right to own our businesses, equal pay and protections under the law.

Keeping the Legacy Alive

One way we can carry on suffragists’ legacy by supporting our employees in expressing their right to vote in local and national elections. Voting is one of the most important ways your employees can influence issues that impact their daily lives and jobs. Everything from traffic laws on their commute to legal issues regulations for their jobs are decided by elected officials and, sometimes, by direct votes on ballot measures.

Unfortunately, voter turnout in the United States of America has been historically low. Many people cite limited time to vote and the ability to get to polling places as barriers to voting. Iowa provides the right to time off to vote, but even employees who can vote outside of their scheduled shifts can find it hard to get to the polls. A lack of childcare, long lines at the precincts and multiple jobs can also get in the way of voting.

Many companies are finding that encouraging their employees to vote is good for business as well as their communities. Companies who engage in voter and civic education efforts have seen measurable positive returns in employee performance, brand loyalty and even business-centered interests.

Get out the vote experts recommend focusing on participation over politics. Here are just a few, simple ideas to increase civic engagement in your workspaces:

  • Provide education and resources to your employees to help them register to vote and exercise that right. Be sure to include information about absentee and early voting.
  • Offer information about a range of issues and candidates. This can be as simple as an information center with candidate literature. You can also host candidates or have weekly lunch and learns in the weeks leading up to an election.
  • Remind your employees on election day to vote.
  • Add voting days—including municipal, school and other days—to your company calendar.
  • Provide paid time off to vote. Better yet, make major voting days a half-day or full holiday. That way employees can also volunteer, watch children while a partner votes or help others get to the polls.

 

There is still work to be done, especially in addressing the disparities early suffragists often ignored or furthered. We can continue to honor the work done by early suffragists by working to ensure all people in the United States can express their values at the voting booth. And that can start with our own teams.

How to Foster a Family-Friendly Small Business

Large companies like Google, SAS and Facebook have made an impact with their bold and innovative family-friendly policies. They are also seeing improved retention, engagement and satisfaction as a result of their ability to offer such benefits to employees.

Your small business can reap these rewards as well. You may never have the benefits buying power of Amazon, but there are lots of cost-efficient ways to be a more family-friendly place to work.

Rethink family

Family-friendly policies tend to center on parents and benefit younger women. These are an important part of systematic changes necessary to decrease the motherhood wage gap. But all employees can benefit from family-friendly practices, as well as parenting teammates who are more engaged and happier in their jobs.

It is also important to remember that families come in all shapes and sizes. Family does not always involve the care of children. This is especially true as the workforce ages and more workers are called on to care for their aging parents or partners. Consider expanding options—such as time off for a new child or flexibility—to grandparents or other caregivers.

Flexible work time and locations

If there is one thing we have learned from the Covid-19 crisis, it is that where and when we work can be flexible for many employees. Offering the option to work remotely or flex their hours can be a boon to employees and your bottom line.

All employees can benefit from the flexibility, focus and functionality of working from home. Staff with families are also available for school-aged children, have more time to spend with family instead of commute, and have the flexibility for childcare emergencies. As an employer, you also benefit from increased productivity, lower turnover and even a broader recruiting base.

Treat your staff like family

Your employees spend a significant portion of their waking hours with you and your business. For many, that is more time than they spend with their families. Respect that commitment by promoting decent working conditions. Wages, whenever possible, should reflect the cost of living. And, policies should protect employees when a client or customer mistreats your employee or puts them in danger (this applies to COVID safety protocols, too).

In addition, make it possible for your team members to take care of themselves. Start with a genuine emphasis on work-life balance. When choosing benefits, offer an Employee Assistance Plan and (if possible) insurance or an insurance stipend. Finally, consider paid leave and even paid paternal leave so loyal employees do not have to choose between caring for their family and coming in ill or losing pay.

Especially now, family-friendly workplaces are important selling points for workers. Practices like these and others are a great way to get ahead of the curve and position yourself as a company that sees employees as more than a name on a badge.