08 Mar Fostering Gender Equality and Diversity in the Workplace
Working on the inclusion of women in the workplace is an essential step towards the development of our country. Currently, India has a female workforce participation rate of 24 percent, according to the 2018 Economic Survey compared to the world average of 40 percent. Research has proven that having more women managers are proving good for business outcomes. More and more companies are welcoming women into once only male office rooms and board rooms.
TATA Motors, for example, realized that 70-80% of the purchase decisions in their organization were made by women and yet they were not represented in their value chain. They worked towards bringing in more women employees to mirror their customer base.
Accenture is recognized widely for providing an inclusive and supportive environment for its more than 45,000 women in India. HR firms are relying on data analytics to make their diversity hiring more efficient.
But here is the challenge, on one hand, there is an increased acceptance of women in workplaces and on the other, the number of women participating in the workplace is decreasing. Hiring more women is just one part of the equation and if done in isolation is not very effective, and sometimes just re-iterates the stereotypes about women in workplaces. There are issues that need to be addressed to encourage more women in workplaces and retain them.
“Hiring more women is just one part of the equation and if done in isolation is not very effective”
These are few of the most pressing needs that if addressed can lead to a better gender balance at the workplace.
- Leaders need to be convinced of the change: This is a no brainer. Unless the management of the organization is genuinely concerned about improving diversity, it won’t happen. The same goes for gender inclusion. The organizational strategy and the culture of any organization are driven by the leadership and they can influence it by making target gender ratios. Having more women in management positions definitely helps.
- Actions speak louder than policies: Just having gender-inclusive policies is not enough. It is important that everyone in the organization knows about them and acts accordingly including those against sexual harassment. This is easier said than done but just like any change in the organization, this too needs to be actively driven.
- Gender-neutral language usage in all company policies and communication: Once women are part of the organization, it is wise to start using gender-neutral communication so that women don’t feel excluded. This might seem to be irrelevant as it is “understood”, but this signals that the company is serious about inclusion.
- Actively listening to diverse voices: An inclusive workplace is collaborative and provides a safe environment for everyone to put forward their point of view and discuss with each other. Every idea counts and everyone is respected for their thoughts. Apart from listening, there have to be ways in which the voices are documented and acted upon.
- Safety concerns need to be addressed promptly: Anti-sexual harassment norms should be strictly followed in the organization but also other safety or security concerns raised by the female employees need to be addressed adequately and promptly. This will convey that the organization cares for its female employees and does not take its concerns lightly.
- Clean, accessible restrooms for women at workplaces: It might seem obvious but in smaller organizations, this is still a big operational challenge. Many such offices have no toilets whatsoever forcing both men and women working there to use public toilets that might not be maintained properly. Ensuring accessible and clean restrooms is the first step to ensure a woman-friendly workplace.
Once women are in conducive workplaces the organizations can expect greater team confidence, efficiency and an improved return on capital invested.