Research shows that organizations that have a healthy ratio of women at senior leadership positions have a higher rate of return on equity than the ones driven by only men. Companies have started to wake up to the reality that high potential and talented women can contribute just as much, or even better than their male counterparts in the organization. This to some extent, has resulted in an increased emphasis on gender diversity at the work place. However, the unfortunate part is that, in a majority of organizations, gender diversity initiatives are still viewed as a mere tick mark activity. These organizations are focusing on the short-term goal of meeting the mandatory quota of women employees in Leadership roles, set by the Government of India. What they are lacking, is a more holistic perspective, which is crucial to bringing about real change.
Once a woman is hired, what does the organization do, to ensure she is made to feel included? Are there effective policies and guidelines? Is the culture and environment conducive to gender inclusion? Are there reliable and effective support systems that she can depend on? The existing cultural barriers (both regional and within the organization) will not automatically disappear overnight. The organization needs to make a strong commitment and put in consistent effort to make this change. Women employees must be constantly and systematically nurtured so that they grow to become leaders and can perform at their optimum potential without any organizational barriers. If we look around, examples of companies which have gotten this formula right, are still few and far between.
4 things organizations can do to get this formula right:
We at Pink Ladder believe there are 4 ways in which organizations can take the right steps towards this direction.
Make the right first impression: The first step starts at the talent acquisition phase. Right from the job description which highlights how inclusive the workplace is for women, to videos of women employees enjoying working in the organization, to women representation in the interview panel, all of which, will attract women employees. Additionally, while conducting tours of the facility to prospective women employees, companies should showcase facilities that resonate well with women, rather than the typical pool table, café lounge among others. All these go a long way in creating the right first impressions of being a gender inclusive workplace.
Build a team of women ambassadors: You may have a goal of hiring more women representation in technology, sales etc. but if you start looking through a rigid and narrow quota as part of your recruitment process, you will hit a roadblock. The fact of the matter is, women bring in more women. Once you hire more women in traditional work areas, create the right environment and policies, these women will themselves help you source and hire women for other niche roles you may have.
Salary parity and progression: Another key area where most companies lag is in offering salary parity to women employees and having a progression system which recognizes individuals for their performance irrespective of their gender. Companies can formulate a board with representation from both male and women senior leaders along with neutral third-party consultants who can help companies define the right salary structures and progression mechanisms for the same. Periodic audit of this system and process by these consultants can be mandated to ensure that this is followed systematically across various levels of the organization/job roles. Some of the areas that this board can look into are:
- Ensuring that salary differences are addressed, and parity is maintained on an on-going basis
- Weeding out unconscious gender bias in the way employees are rewarded for their efforts.
- Criteria for promotions should be clearly defined at all levels of the organization.
- A clear set of measurable goals to be set and agreed before the start of the financial year.
- Periodical reviews which will help address any challenges that an employee might be facing and enable her to meet her goals.
Holistic Support Systems: One key element in this entire approach is the role of holistic support systems that can nurture these women employees by helping them build on their strengths while also identifying core challenges and behavioral patterns that are holding them back from performing at their optimum. Typical internal mentoring or training programs may not meet their specific requirements, nor does a one-size-fits-all approach work as effectively. Pink Ladder research shows that over 80% women believe training and mentoring support, currently offered isn’t customized to meet their core requirements nor is it secure (in terms of privacy and neutrality) for them to share their issues openly, thereby limiting them in their ability to utilize these support systems in the best possible manner. An able partner who can bring in a holistic approach to address these issues can help companies move a long way in their gender diversity journey
The question is not if, but when should organizations start their journey towards this end goal of being a gender inclusive work place. The ones which do this with total commitment are the ones who will be the leaders in tomorrow’s best places to work!