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International Women’s Day: How Beanworks CEO Catherine Dahl is Breaking the Bias

March 8, 2022

Catherine Dahl, Beanworks CEO

Covid-19 may have accelerated digital transformation in AP and AR for businesses, but it has also drastically slowed the progress businesses were making toward closing the gender parity gap.

The latest statistics from the World Economic Forum state that it will now take more than 135 years to close the gender parity gap in the workplace.

That number is up since 2019 when it hovered around 100 years.

But the CEO and founder of Beanworks Catherine Dahl is not having it.

To break the bias of gender inequality, the issue must be explored and addressed from multiple angles. It’s not enough to say “hire more women”. Hiring women doesn’t solve the problem identified by McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report of the “broken rung” – an issue flagged back in 2016 about how fewer women get promoted into management positions than men, which makes gender parity at senior and executive management levels impossible to attain.

While recruitment and promotion are important to tackling gender bias, there are other concerns that must also be considered. For Dahl, the issue of shared family leave is non-negotiable – women should not have to wait another 135 years to ensure this benefit is normalized. As a response to the predominantly male International Labour Organization (ILO), Washington DC’s first International Congress of Working Women (ICWW) was held in October 1919. In just ten days, the ICWW had mapped out their resolutions, which included mandatory women’s representation in the ILO, the definition of an 8-hour workday, and maternity insurance.

The efforts made by the ICWW resulted in the ILO agreeing to the formation of The Commission on the Employment of Women. One of their first achievements was the Maternity Protection Convention, which adopted a series of proposals including six-week maternity leave, paid health benefits for mother and child, and free access to midwifery. Upon returning to work, it was agreed all new mothers would also be entitled to dedicated breastfeeding breaks.

Over the next century, 34 nations would ratify this convention, and eight would then go on to renounce it including the United States (although it remains the foundation for many family leave policies in various states).

Today, in 2022, we are still debating what family leave looks like and what types of protections fall under this initiative.

According to data from the Pew Research Center, the U.S. is the only country among the 41 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the European Union, that does not have a mandated paid leave program for new parents. It does have the job protection component — parents may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and come back to their jobs.

Breaking the bias at Beanworks

Catherine Dahl has her own perspective on parental leave and supporting women in the workforce. In this recent interview with Focus Magazine, Dahl points out Beanworks is looking at parity from multiple angles.

“As a workforce society, we are not advanced in such a way that we reward parents who take time out and make the necessary sacrifices to raise their children. Not only that, most companies’ hiring practices also do not make it easy for them to come back to work,” she states.

“At Beanworks, we stay connected to mothers on maternity leave, and actively promote the idea of both parents taking time off. We hold positions open for the parents on leave for childcare and seek a healthy gender balance when hiring staff as best as we can.”

A recent survey of over 440,000 working parents at 1,200 companies shows that generous paid parental leave and other benefits result in higher rates of retention and engagement.
Other benefits of paid leave are well-established. Providing new parents with paid time off to care for newborn or recently adopted children contributes to the healthy development of the child, improves the parent’s mental and physical health, and enhances families’ economic security. Paid medical and caregiving leave allows employees to care for themselves and loved ones when ill or injured, and reduces financial stress during those times. These benefits improve retention and productivity, and increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

“At Beanworks, providing our employees with all the tools and support they need to be successful ensures that we are successful in providing for our customers,” Dahl notes.

“A supportive parental leave policy makes good business sense as well as great personal sense. If we aren’t happy at home, we aren’t happy at work. And vice versa. That benefits no one.”

Parental leave is just one component of reaching gender parity in the workplace. And while this is an ongoing conversation, it’s also directly relevant to the viability of the business.

According to the Harvard Business Review, breaking the bias through gender diversity leads companies to be more productive as measured by market value and revenue. In addition, a diverse workforce is better at attracting talent, encouraging innovation, and signaling competence to investors— all critical keys to the long-term success of any enterprise.

“Breaking the bias is important to me personally, as a CEO who happens to be a woman,” Dahl said, “and it should be important to any organization that wants to thrive in the next 100 years.”

Read Beanworks CEO Catherine Dahl’s full interview with Focus Magazine, “Women in the C-Suite: The Long Road to Gender Parity”

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