In today’s dynamic business environment, achieving gender equality is important for workplaces not only because it is ‘fair’ and ‘the right thing to do,’ but also because by not integrating women as an integral part of the workforce in general, it loses out on the skills, ideas, improved decision-making, and perspectives that are essential to address the global issues and to harness new scopes and opportunities.
257 Years. Yes, that is the expected timeframe to achieve global gender equality on the dimension of economic participation and opportunity as per the 2020 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report.
So, what’s going on…?
One of the key challenges companies often face is getting the gender balance right in the workplace. And, most often when they get it right, they need to ensure that they stay on. Employee retention has been a key priority for many businesses in the past and retaining women staff, in particular, in the long-run has been a challenge.
Globally women at leadership positions are very less and only 4.9 percent of Fortune 500 companies have women in a corporate leadership position. India has one of the lowest labour force participation by women as a percentage of Total Labor Force at 22 percent vis-à-vis the global women LFR at 39 percent1.
Gender inequality and skewed distribution of assets and power within the family, workplace and socio-political institutions are both the cause and consequence of multiple forms of discrimination that tend to repeat themselves over time and over generations thus having a negative impact on women’s progress.
Thus, it is important to understand why are women leaving?
- Bias in the selection process
- Social expectations and gender stereotypes
- Absence of reliable infrastructure outside of work (daycare/ transportation etc.)
- Lack of uniformity across the company’s take on offering women flexi-working hours
- Inferiority complex among women to do the job
Contrary to the belief that they are moms, becoming moms or lack ambition, women often cite pay gap, lack of learning & development, shortage of meaningful work, fewer opportunities for growth as some of the primary reasons for leaving the company.2
An increasing number of companies are seeing the value of having more women in leadership, and they’re proving that they can make progress on gender diversity. A near 24 percent jump in the representation of women at the C-suite is a bright spot, still, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels.3
More and more companies are today recognizing that women bring in diversity in experiences, perspectives and backgrounds, which is crucial to innovation. Inclusion of women’s perspectives in designing and developing products/services, therefore, is often helping them achieve exceptional breakthroughs.
Procter & Gamble’s Mentor Up Program – through which female employees became mentors to senior managers is a reverse mentorship initiative. Despite initial scepticism, in the first five years of the program, the number of women in senior leadership roles grew sixfold.4 In 2009, Deutsche Bank’s Global Head of Diversity created an internal program called ATLAS (Accomplished Top Leaders Advancement Strategy) that paired women leaders with the executive committee in an effort to reduce the women workforce attrition due to getting bigger jobs externally.5 Then there are the others like SP+ – an American provider of parking facility management services – which has a Women’s Advisory Forum (WAF) dedicated to fostering growth, leadership and success for women; AppNexus – is a global technology company – that believes that creating a diverse & inclusive workforce will help support innovation, better business outcomes and retain the best talent.
What are they doing?
Companies are realizing the urgency of retaining women talent by putting in place initiatives such as:
- Targeted hiring and promotion which focuses on growing the number of women at the entry levels. With gender-specific targets on promotion and hiring, companies are thus shaping staff representation. Targets for the proportion of women in top positions are also being set by companies.
- Formal Mentorship/Young Leader Programs such as the one @ IPE Global that not only fast tracks employee growth but also encourages women workforce into leadership roles.
- Flexible working arrangements whether working outside typical office hours or at home
- Focusing on values and culture to create a conducive work environment especially among women to help overcome fears of negative career consequences, manager scepticism, excessive workload etc.
- Increased adaptability within companies to recognise a shift in priorities among women especially among those who may want to explore and use their skill sets in other departments within the company.
- Giving the female workforce the power to choose and encourage them to:
- Have more decision-making power.
- Deliberate and decide on their career choices.
- Build ownership.
- Focusing on Manager Mentorship Programs to make them more sensitive to the needs and changing priorities of the women workforce in/across their teams.
- Create a conducive work environment for women workforce
Investment in retaining women workforce can give dividends. Diverse leadership teams are linked to higher profits; women make teams smarter, and more women in the job market increase and diversify the talent pool which spurs new ideas. At IPE Global we believe in a fair play and advocate for gender parity. Launched in March 2017, #MakeWayforHer digital campaign engages people to help break perceptions and build a more inclusive world to address gender pay gaps in the formal workspace, home and society at large. The campaign had over 2 Lakh digital followers across 120 countries within 30 days of launch and won several awards.
Government, on its part, can further push forward through enabling policies, regulatory frameworks to create a level playing field for women. Pushing for grievance redressal systems in place for women workers; access to privacy and Maternity Benefit Amendment Act (2017) have been some of the key steps in this direction.
In this transformation era, technology will continue to dramatically challenge and drive business models. Thus, companies need to increasingly develop a combination of interpersonal and technological skills which smartly leverages on its human capital. A diverse workforce signals an attractive work environment for talent, idea exchange and competent management for investors. However, despite the evidence available, the age-old assumption that women value career less is still hard to fight.
Thus, it is critical that gender diversity is established as part of the business strategy and everyone is committed to taking affirmative actions to drive the change in a focused, synchronized and deliberate manner and help #MakeWayforher.
- Derived using data from the International Labour Organisation, ILOSTAT database and World Bank population estimates. Labor data retrieved in September 2019.
- A survey published by ICEDR 2016
- 2019 Mckinsey & Company and Leanin.org Women in the Workplace Study
- Rottenberg, Linda. Crazy Is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags. Portfolio, 2014. Print
- Ibarra, Hermina, Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva. 2010. Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women. Harvard Business Review, Sep. 2010.