Excellence doesn’t distinguish between genders. Instead, it recognizes talent and good management. That’s why the best companies are open to a diverse and balanced work environment, supporting and actively promoting gender equality.
Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue Airways, sums up the essence of gender equality in this simple sentence: Men and women are equal, not identical. As he points out, a diversity in opinions and ways of thinking is essential to the success of a business venture. Good leaders know that and they use differences to foster growth, not to limit it.
What’s the latest data on gender equality?
The 2015 Global Gender Gap Report shows that, while more women than men are enrolling at university in 97 countries, women make up the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries and the majority of leaders in only four:
The 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Index pits the United States behind in gender equality, while Norway and Iceland take the lead:
Similar findings in the 2013 Gender Gap Report reveal that, on average, over 96% of the gap in health outcomes, 93% of the gap in educational attainment, 60% of the gap in economic participation and 21% of the gap in political empowerment has been closed. However, no country in the world has achieved gender equality. The four highest ranked countries—Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden—have closed between 81% and 87% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranked country—Yemen—has closed a little over half of its gender gap: (Source)
Education levels are up so there’s plenty of talent to go around. The problem is that companies aren’t offering the right development opportunities. As education levels rise so does the gender gap.
If you really want to recruit end engage high-performing talent you should promote gender equality in your company.
Gender equality is crucial
Businesses can only benefit by successfully attracting both men and women to their workforce. It’s now an established fact that organizations with the most gender diversity outperform those with the least. Here are a couple of reasons why.
It makes great business sense
Women are increasingly more highly educated than men, as shown in the Global Gender Gap Report. You can leverage your competitive advantage on the long-run by attracting and retaining the best talent, regardless of their gender.
Catalyst’s 2011 study found that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales (ROS) by 16 percent and return on invested capital (ROIC) by 26 percent. (Source)
It reduces the costs of turnover
Both men and women will leave a company that is not flexible. Flexible work arrangements that facilitate sharing of care lead to better recruitment and retention outcomes.
A company that fosters gender diversity will support retention of employees and reduce an important expense by limiting advertising costs, time spent on interviews and administrative tasks, termination pay, onboarding costs for the new employee etc.
In their article on The role of calculative attachment in the relationship between diversity climate and retention, David M. Kaplan, Jack W. Wiley and Carl P. Maertz Jr. point out that decreased turnover intentions are associated with employees’ positive perceptions of an organization’s diversity climate. The study also establishes indirect links between positive perceptions of the climate and predictions of calculative attachment and satisfaction. (Source)
It increases business performance
There are a range of reasons why company performance and gender diversity may be linked, as this Credit Suisse report on Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance shows. One reason is that diversity brings together varied perspectives, produces a more holistic analysis of the issues a company faces and stimulates greater effort, leading to improved decision-making. (Source)
McKinsey&Company successfully showed that diverse teams are also top financial performers. Looking at the at the executive board composition, returns on equity (ROE), and margins on earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of 180 publicly traded companies in France, Germany, the UK, and the US over the period from 2008 to 2010, the study focused on measuring two groups: women and foreign nationals on senior teams.
The results speak for themselves: for companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity, ROEs were 53 percent higher, on average, than they were for those in the bottom quartile. EBIT margins at the most diverse companies were 14 percent higher, on average, than those of the least diverse companies. (Source)
What’s the role of Leadership?
People are naturally prone to stereotyping. Gender stereotypes are especially hard to break, as the work of Mahzarin Banaji at Harvard confirms.
As an HR manager, you have to:
• overcome vertical and horizontal job segregation;
• overcome stereotypes and building an equality environment;
• ensure sustainable flexibility and reconciling work with family and social life.
Here are some concrete action steps an HR manager can take to ensure gender equality:
– Review job advertisements encouraging both men and women to apply for the position.
– Set quantitative recruitment goals to support gender equality.
– Widen your recruitment pool.
– Run recruitment campaigns in universities and colleges to attract women applicants to areas that have been generally destined for men such as tech jobs.
– Review job descriptions and job requirements and make sure that they don’t favor one category over another.
– Place greater value on soft skills and abilities.
– Ensure transparent selection procedures that focus on individual qualities and aptitudes.
– Make sure that the applicants are assessed exclusively on the job requirements.
– Request interviewers to justify the basis for their selection.
– Offer training for all employees at the point of entry.
– Invest in tailored and individualized training and development.
– Develop training initiatives aimed at increasing assertiveness.
– Provide different forms of mentoring to support the development of women for leadership roles.
– Change the traditional career structure to a non-linear one.
– Integrate equality into the overall guidelines and strategic goals of your company.
– Offer the same rewards for the same work, regardless of a person’s gender.
– Get the pulse of the workplace and listen to the voice of the employees.
– Constantly raise awareness about this issue.
– Communicate progress and rationale for gender equality
– Redesign your workplace to exclude gender division and encourage diversity.
– Offer flexibility and support the reconciliation of employees work and personal lives. For example individualized flexible working hours, group flexible working hours or flexible time off.
– Offer a stress management and/or stress management training.
– Offer parental leave beyond the legal provisions.
– Invest in a family maternity&paternity service.
– Offer days of paid time off for child care.
As a CEO you probably have the biggest influence on the company’s position regarding gender equality. You have the power to influence and control the gender gap in your company.
And you’ll want to do that. An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that companies with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34% higher than for companies with the lowest representation. (Source)
In an effort to bolster high-level corporate leadership for gender equality, in June 2010, the UN Women/UN Global Compact WEPs partnership launched a CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles. By signing the Statement, CEOs demonstrate leadership on gender equality and women’s empowerment and encourage fellow business leaders to do the same. You can sign the CEO Statement here.
“As one of the first companies to sign onto the CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles, we remain dedicated to the advancement of women globally. Women comprise a significant portion of apparel sector workers. By investing in access to proper health care, a safe, non-discriminatory work environment and opportunities for asset building targeted to women, we’re not only investing in our workers, we’re investing in a healthy and sustainable workplace for all.”
President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. John Anderson
Gender equality means employees can access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of whether they are a woman or a man. The goal is to achieve equal results for women and men, not exactly the same result for all employees.
Take your business to the top by actively encouraging and promoting gender equality.