Mind the [Gender] Gap

Why inclusive training strategies help grow female employees’ careers

Are your staff training programs inclusive and unbiased toward your male or female staffers?

While women tend to make up the majority of optical’s staffing, it’s vital to your (and their) growth to take a second look at your training practices to be sure they are inclusive and unbiased—whether you’ve got a shop staffed by just a few employees or a multilocation practice with a staff of 50.

The online learning company D2L recently released a survey that indicates gender gaps exist in the U.S. workforce and have real impact not only on how men and women perform their jobs but also on how they perceive their employers and ability to grow in their careers. Some findings:

64% of men said they have access to online learning platforms, whereas just 48% of women said they did;

Men (73%) are more likely than women (55%) to believe that the organization they work for shares subject matter expertise across teams effectively.

Whether these discrepancies exist or are simply perceived to exist, women can feel less trained and less prepared for career growth in an organization. According to a study by the Aspen Institute, women in retail are overrepresented in frontline positions but underrepresented in higher-paying management jobs.

What to do? Global social-impact consulting firm FSG found simple steps retail businesses can take to help women grow their management careers (and feel that their company is behind them):

Flexible scheduling policies

Dependent care (pretax) expense accounts

Paid sick leave

Employee assistance programs (that can connect employees with external resources for child care, health care, etc.)

Formal mentoring programs

Management training

Formal job training (that includes ongoing skills training).

+ Pro Retail Training Tips

Ashley Welch, co-founder of Somersault Innovation, leads the She Sells by Design training events for women. Here, she shares two key training strategies that resonate with the fairer sex:

Experience. “Giving learners an experience—something visceral—is the optimal way to learn because it creates an emotional reaction that people remember. This could be a role-play or trying something in a retail environment.”

Feedback. “Another way people learn is to show them what ‘good’ looks like and then have them practice and get feedback. For example, we will demo what an empathic and customer-centric conversation looks like that elicits valuable information. We then ask [staff] to practice in pairs doing the same thing and then ask for feedback from their partner.”