A recent research by Pink Ladder shows that over 90% women professionals in India aspire to become CXOs but in reality, that number stands at a meagre 1.5%! Focusing on diversity in the workplace that really works, is the need of the hour to build a more gender equal workplace.
Organizations should start looking at gender diversity as a key strategic business driver. Research shows that companies driven by women leaders generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year vs. 7.4 percent for those without. There is still tremendous scope for progress to be made before we achieve true gender equality.
Representation of women at senior leadership levels is very low across the globe and more so, when it comes to India. A World Economic Forum report shows that only 60 percent of the eligible female population participates in the global workforce, while male participation is in the high 80s!
Cultural Barriers to Gender Diversity
Culturally in India, women have always played second fiddle to men as bread winners for the family. With the advent of the IT industry, there was a sudden influx of women into the workforce and that number has been steadily increasing. However, there is also a substantial drop that happens at the mid manager level driven by various factors such as marriage, kids, family responsibilities among others. Women find it difficult to step up as most of them have to balance professional as well as a larger portion of home responsibilities. This leads to a lower representation at the mid management levels and continues to taper exponentially to the executive levels. Added to it, is the slow pace in which women are promoted to senior levels. Research shows that men are three times more likely to be promoted and senior level women quit at a rate of 28%, which is 4 times higher than the rate they join an organization! This results in gaps in the talent pool which is a big impediment in creating gender equality over the next decade.
Understanding what Drives Gender Diversity
What strategies can organizations adopt to achieve gender diversity in a way that effectively combats these gaps? We at Pink Ladder believe the following steps could help:
· Irrespective of the size of the organization, they need to have a holistic approach to support female talent. They should have clear policies which facilitate an equal talent flow for women and men.
· The CEO and Board should be made accountable to increasing gender diversity within the organization. We see organizations where senior leaders are active and engaged in diversity programs, and this results in more women representation through all levels within the organization, and there is more gender equality in sourcing talent as well.
· There needs to be a systematic and customized management of female talent that can create more favorable results than traditional diversity programs that are put in place as a mere to-do list.
· Pay equality is another key driver, to ensure that women employees are not demotivated by the pay gap vis-à-vis their male counterparts and can commit to building a long-term career within the organization.
· Policies and systems should also be put in place where women and men are given equal access to profit and loss responsibilities and key projects.
· Women and men should be given flexible work arrangements to drive gender equality at a greater rate not just at work place but also at home.
Nurturing Female Talent
According to research Women make up only 5 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, hold less than 25 percent of management roles, and just less than 19 percent of board roles globally. Since the 1980s pay equality for women has also stagnated.
Traditional programs and solutions will not be effective in the new normal. Innovative programs, policies, partnerships should be solicited that can impact organizations’ long-term ability to retain female talent. Specifically, customized career enhancement solutions encompassing coaching, mentoring, image consulting among others can help organizations to better attract, develop and retain female talent. Sensitizing men in the organization to challenges faced by women and the need for gender diversity will go a long way in improving the situation
More participation from women in the work force has broader implications to the growth of the company and the economic progress of a country on the whole. Economists have predicted that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could help India add 60% to its 2025 GDP.
Building a Holistic Road Map
Organizations should identify able partners who can bring together experts from industry and academia, to help them take a holistic approach to gender diversity by building best-in-class policies, systems and processes. Additionally, companies can solicit partnerships with career enhancement solution providers that can help nurture their women employees to step up and become more effective leaders. It’s time organizations move towards a gender diversity policy that can make a real difference to their women workforce.