MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Women empowerment has made great strides in the last few decades. Some have entered previously male-dominated fields, risen to the highest ranks, and set up some of the world’s biggest companies, including Canva, which grew from being a graphic design tool into an end-to-end creativity and collaboration platform.
The challenge now is to create opportunities for more women to shine. Maisie Littaua, Canva Philippines’ Head of Growth, shared some ways that companies can help women take bigger roles while supporting work-life balance.
Actively pursue diversity and protect equal opportunity
Some companies ask applicants to state their marital status in their applications because of a bias against working moms. However, more companies are actively building an inclusive workplace.
Take it from Canva Philippines. It champions Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) and has incorporated it into the job hiring process. It removes exclusive language from job postings and hosts workshops for everyone involved in hiring so they know how to assess candidates and mitigate biases. Canva has also set representation goals across different specialties like Operations, Design, Engineering, and Product, among others so diversity is not just created at one level.
“We need to cultivate more opportunities for women in the workplace, and equal opportunity for career advancement. Women should be able to highlight their strengths, without being hindered by a bias that they might have a child,” said Maisie.
Encourage mentorship and growth
“Coaching support can help prepare women for bigger roles,” said Maisie. “They can receive the right guidance from the start and be given the chance to show what they can do.”
Canva’s development program focuses on four areas: craft or technical skills, strategy, communication, and personal leadership. Aside from formal workshops and informal brown bag sessions, each manager is a “coach” and each employee is a “coachee.” Throughout the year, they have growth and impact chats about personal goals, well-being, and motivation.
Maisie believes that mentorship goes beyond career development; it creates a culture of empowerment. Women have positive role models who encourage them to take on bigger roles. They can also help other women pursue their aspirations or, as they say in Canva, to “Empower Others.”
“Being part of a network of leaders who continuously develop, promote, and even champion women is something that I found particularly fulfilling in Canva,” Maisie said.
Support work-life balance
Work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges that women face today. While they have more responsibilities and expectations at work, they are still expected to carry the brunt of domestic responsibilities.
Canva recognizes women’s contribution to the family with policies that support them in their different roles.
First, Canva’s flexible work arrangement allows Canvanauts to choose whether they want to work from the office or from home, and can ask for tools to improve their home office set-up.
Second, they have asynchronous ways of working. “Instead of relying on calls, we have documents where team members can share ideas. This allows people to work on their own time, and not rely on somebody’s presence in a meeting,” said Maisie. “It’s not just for women, but a recognition of diverse experiences and that our home lives are very different from one another.”
Canva also offers additional benefits like carer’s leave for those who need to take care of sick family members, paternity leaves, and a return-to-work program for moms after maternity leave. The office even has a Parents’ Room that is equipped with diapers, breast milk bags, and changing tables.
Pay attention to well-being and motivation
Well-being is a key component of work-life balance and motivation. During the pandemic, Canva launched the “Vibe and Thrive” allowance, which they can spend on anything that will support their mental health and overall wellbeing, from fitness equipment to singing lessons. Canva even has over four hundred social clubs where they can meet employees with similar interests.
At the Canva office, employees also enjoy free breakfast and lunch prepared by their in-house chefs, an indoor gym, and life coach sessions.
Address unconscious gender bias
“Unconscious gender bias is detrimental to women, other co-workers in general, and your own personal growth,” says Maisie.
That’s why Canva holds regular bias awareness sessions for all employees, and not just people involved in recruitment. “It helps with day-to-day working relationships and performance evaluations by team leaders.”
Companies can make a big difference in empowering women. However, Maisie said that the first and most critical step towards empowerment actually happens within. “The internal challenge is one of the hardest. Other people or structures can create the space for you to succeed, but there also has to be an internal push, and that comes from truly believing that you can succeed in the workplace.”