Insights

Balance for Better – three steps organisations must take in 2019 to address gender diversity

The road to equality is long and the gender agenda has evolved alongside it. The rise of women is not about the fall of men; it is about creating a more gender-balanced world. And, we all have a critical role to play. 2019’s International Women’s day focuses on #balanceforbetter: better the balance, better the world. But, what does this mean for organisations in 2019?

Fearless Girl Statue facing the NY Stock Exchange

Recent reports from Leanin.org highlight key progress to date:

  • Women are earning more bachelor’s degrees then men
  • Women are asking for promotions at the same rate as men
  • Women are staying in the workforce at the same rate as men.

However, despite the above, LeanIn.org found women are still less likely than men to be:

  • Hired into entry level or manager level jobs
  • Promoted into manager roles, despite asking at the same rates (for every 100 men promoted there are only 79 women).

Today, 45% of men and 28% of women think women are now well represented at Leadership. In reality, only 1 in 10 of senior leaders are women. It is clear that gender balance at middle management has been neglected, And, whilst organisations are making some improvements at the senior level, it is not enough. At the current rate, women can never catch up.

So, how can organisations continue to move the gender agenda forward to ‘better the balance’?

  1. Actions must stem from the very top – underpinned by real evidence

Organisations must clearly and transparently state their current diversity position, making commitments both internally and externally. It must be treated as a business priority. However, Leanin.org found only 38% of organisations have set targets and only 12% have shared their gender diversity metrics with their employees. If leaders are held accountable and provided with tangible data points, powerful goals can be set. Without these in place, it is hard to see how real change can be galvanised across an organisation. 

Success Story

Sodexo struggled to get their managers to truly engage with diversity initiatives. Through in-depth analysis Sodexo discovered business units with more women in management actually performed better across key business metrics. By creating a business case, Sodexo could galvanise change amongst their leaders, and tied gender diversity goals (based on this analysis) to leaders’ annual bonuses.

  1. Actions must be bias free

Actions taken must be balanced; policies and procedures favouring only women often resulted in a counter-productive culture and environment. Examples could be improving parental leave policies, not just maternal leave policies or engaging both men and women in gender diversity networks.    

Success Story

P&G addressed this through their MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) network, developed by Catalyst. This programme helps men to understand biases that can disadvantage women in the workplace, and how to mitigate them. Nearly 1,000 P&G leaders completed their workshop. 100% of attendees felt they now had a personal stake in diversity and inclusion and were committed to working on recognising bias and taking steps to counteract it.

  1. A culture of trust and respect is a must

Bias-free actions and support from the most senior levels will help but, without a culture of trust that empowers all colleagues, progress will be stunted. Creating a culture of inclusivity is critical to bringing diversity to the table; without it, the consequences to individuals are damaging. For example, LeanIn.org found women continue to be more likely to face everyday discriminations or microaggressions, subjected to demeaning comments, and must provide more evidence of competence. Organisations must take decisive action to address the way people work in their organisation, ensuring codes of conduct, policies and procedures are both fair and respected by all.

Success Story

Through focus groups and surveys, Mozilla found they had issues with their culture of inclusivity. Mozilla fundamentally changed its Community Practice Guidelines (Mozilla’s code of conduct), working with female focus groups to articulate examples of good and bad behaviour, and what to expect when reporting incidents. All employees were educated on the changes to their code of conduct and, most importantly, why these changes were made. By working collaboratively to change their code of conduct, 14% more women believed harassment and bullying were no longer tolerated, 15% felt safer reporting incidents, and 10% felt people treated each other with more respect.

In summary, whilst progress has been made, there is still much more for organisations to do in 2019 and beyond. Organisations must take decisive action or risk being seen as paying ‘lip service’ to gender diversity in the workplace. Ensuring leaders take real accountability for gender equality, founded in data, in parallel to bias-free actions will help further the gender agenda. But, if companies do not establish an inclusive culture of trust and respect, these actions will only take them so far.

Source: LeanIn.org Women in the Workplace 2018