WOMEN don't have it easy in the workplace. Between juggling their careers and families, they try to gain the recognition and respect that they deserve from their peers.

Across Asia, women are a minority in many workplaces, and the working style within the general corporate world is geared towards how men think and act, which may sometimes disadvantage women.

Some companies recognise that women think differently from men, and have different life and career goals too. Not everyone aspires to be a high-powered CEO. Some women value work-life balance significantly and would rather hold a job with fewer demands.

Empowerment

Companies need to make an effort to understand their female employees' situations and not only empower and motivate them, but ultimately also retain them.

An initiative such as the Women's Business Council (WBC) helps HR practitioners accomplish this.

WBC was created a year ago by Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski as just one of the facets of Nortel's Diversity Council, which is active in Nortel offices globally and comprises the Black Business Council, Asian Business Council, Latino Business Council and Disabilities Business Council.

Diversity isn't just about gender, age, ethnicity or cultural background. It is a way of thinking differently and making sure that the company is getting the best ideas, effort and performance from all of its people.

A wealth of innovative ideas arises from a diverse workforce that ultimately transform into action and success for customers and employees.

The WBC has put into place many initiatives to help women recognise their goals, as well as to open their eyes to possibilities that they previously may not have thought of otherwise.

For a start, all staff have the right to be able to work at home as and when they wish, to allow them to keep up with their non-work activities as well.

In addition, the WBC has brought in speakers from various designations, and from a range of different companies. These talks are not exclusive to women and some topics, such as how to balance your work and home lives, have been well attended by male staff as well. Such talks, which are organised within the WBC, serve as a learning ground for men as well as women.

Mentorships

Celebrating and retaining good female talents in the workplace is something that companies like Nortel are striving to do. In Asia, women rarely have mentors for themselves. For this reason, Nortel kickstarted the Link programme in its Asian offices.

Through this global mentorship programme, female staff have someone to look up to, and also a personal cheerleader to root them on as they accomplish their goals.

The pairings are usually done with people in different divisions within the company, to provide a different dimension to what they may be experiencing already.

There have been many successful stories already, with women who have accomplished both professional as well as personal goals. One woman successfully moved out of her administrative role and into her dream marketing position.

Just because women are a minority in many workplaces, companies should not under-value their contributions to the bottom-line. Through programmes like the WBC, mentorship and other dedicated employee retention initiatives, women in the workplace can achieve both professional and personal satisfaction.