A shift towards a more gender-balanced organization requires structural and systemic change.
By Atul Raja
For long, organizations have ignored the value, importance and power play of gender diversity despite many studies postulating that teams with a ‘balanced’ gender mix perform significantly better on critical parameters like revenue and growth.
Gender Diversity in India: In India, gender diversity bias is even more predominant. As per the ‘DivHERsity Benchmarking Report 2019’ which studied gender diversity in the Indian workplace across 300+ companies, only a quarter of India’s workforce is female. This is corroborated by the ‘India Skills Report 2018’ that puts the economic participation of women in the workforce at 23% in 2018, a disconcerting fall from 32% in 2016.
It is universally acknowledged that bridging the gender gap in India is not just a dire need, but a herculean task loaded with multiples challenges like work-family balance, choice of job profiles, work-place conditions and most importantly a mindset and attitudinal change.
With India ranked 142 out of 149 countries in the economic opportunity and participation of women index [as per The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 of WEF], there needs to be concerted effort to increase India’s female labour force participation closer to the global average of 49%.
Benefits of a Gender-balanced Workforce: The nascent gender diversity across most companies in India has seen many roles such as oil and gas, manufacturing, construction and engineering with a male skew. On the flip side, there are also traditionally female-dominated jobs, such as elementary education and nursing. This is a glaring gap as global research, surveys and data-points clearly exhibit that companies which practice greater gender diversity have reported inherent benefits as they fully leverage and utilize the talent available:
- Improved financials and profitability: women in leadership positions, mixed-gender boards and pervasive presence across the rank and file have yielded better financial performance.
- A better ‘employer brand’ perception: a progressive and positive reputation will attract the best talent.
- Employee retention: inclusive culture is a booster for motivation and morale.
- A loyal and broadened customer base: a diverse talent pool makes it easier to attract an increasingly diverse customer base.
- A quality-focused shift: since diverse teams are more creative and better at problem-solving, a better gender-mix signifies the shift from quantity to quality.
Creating Greater Gender Diversity: There has to be a clear distinction between gender diversity and gender equality. Gender diversity doesn’t mean a 50:50 mix of males and females across the organization but a fair representation of both sexes and the critical fact that the hiring team should have an open mind for any openings without assumptions or prejudices.
A shift towards a more gender-balanced organization requires structural and systemic changes:
- A shift in the ‘human capital’ strategy: the diversity strategy to be strongly intertwined with the recruiting strategy e.g. removal of gender-coded words from job descriptions and postings.
- Internal Communications thrust: an internal mindset build-up is essential to begin on the right footing and to shake-up any pre-conceived notions.
- Leaders to be champions of diversity: creating an open, inclusive culture.
- Women Leadership Programs: developing an internal pipeline as a ‘walk the talk’ showcase both internally and externally.
- A balanced pay and benefits structure: robust, family-oriented perks that account for any ‘unintentional’ bias.
Small steps at organizational and employer levels can prove to be a great national asset. As per a McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report titled, “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Asia Pacific”, addressing the gender parity issues could lead to 18% higher GDP for India, i.e. $770 billion by 2025. So, if we are able to bring more women into the workforce, the potential for impact is immense, transformational and with far reaching implications.
Source: Business Insider