In a recent paper by PA Consulting, the benefit of shaping a corporate culture with a focus on diversity in order to create a high performance environment is explored through the lens of gender diversity. The paper presents a problem, which is that across the globe, there are simply not enough women in leadership positions within large corporations.
While you are reading this, as a woman in the trenches, maybe you are looking around your office and taking a quick mental count of number of women in charge? Are you concluding that whilst there are many women in the room, there is still a skewed distribution when it comes to the big decisions –of course this is industry and department specific –so one discourse about the glass ceiling does not fit all?
At The Glass Hammer, and the work we do via our consulting arm Evolved Employer, we believe that whenever you attempt to solve dilemmas around attracting, retaining and promoting people who haven’t historically been the people in the corner offices, then you need to identify multiple approaches, methods, and solutions that incentivize change.
Achieving gender diversity in the workplace –or any degree of diversity for that matter –really depends on two key factors that must work hand-in-hand: policy and people. Policies set the tone for a corporate culture and people reinforce the culture in their daily interactions with their colleagues and clients. When people are incentivized to challenge their own assumptions only then can policies bolster an inclusive work environment and the result is a positive impact on business performance.
Who’s Going to Take Accountability?
As conversations continue to take place about gender diversity in corporate cultures, who is actually stepping up to claim ownership of the issue? Furthermore, who should be stepping up? Surges in gender initiatives at work result in positive changes, but unless we establish change with consistency, we will face a roller coaster of action and reaction that will eventually level off in a stalemate.
According to a recent New York Times article, “When family and work obligations collide, mothers remain much more likely than fathers to cut back or drop out of work. But unlike the situation in the 1960s, this is not because most people believe this is the preferable order of things. Rather, it is often a reasonable response to the fact that our political and economic institutions lag way behind our personal ideals.”
Women want to work, they want to reach senior level positions, and they want to advance their careers. In order to affect change and respond to motivated female executives, organizations need to understand what their up and coming female talent wants in a corporate culture. The PA Consulting report states, “In practice, this means not being distracted by the noise around ‘typical’ generation X and Y wants and needs, and instead truly getting to know your female talent of the future in the broadest sense.” By cultivating female talent early in the pipeline, companies can set a solid foundation for long-term engagement with their most promising female executives.
Gender Diversity is not just a Means to an End
It has been stated over and over that gender diversity is good for business, however, it should be noted that improving the bottom line is not the only reason why companies need to assess their gender diversity initiatives. There is a much more at stake here than a higher ROI.
As the authors of one study state, “Organizations and researchers have posited several potential competitive advantages of diversity, including enabling organizations to compete for the best talent, competing more effectively in the marketplace by understanding the demands of a diverse customer base, enhancing the creativity and problem solving effectiveness of work teams, and reducing costs associated with turnover, absenteeism, and lack of productivity (Cox & Blake, 1991).”
Gender diversity must be prioritized on the corporate business agenda, and it is an ongoing issue that needs to be revisited again and again until the systemic cracks are sealed up for good.