If addressing the gender agenda is in your 2017 HR plan, the risk is that the prospect of pitfalls and push-backs will result in it being assigned to the ‘too difficult and too little benefit’ category, causing it to drift back into next year. So this blog is about how to make a smooth positive start – enabling you to gain support for your proposals, keep the peace and make a real difference.
Gender diversity is in the glare of numerous spot lights and pressure is being brought to bear on organisations to demonstrate their commitment and progress. So, the ball is in your court, but it may feel like you’ll be dammed if you do take action and damned if you don’t. The prospect of Trump-like responses to discussing the topic can be very daunting, so you need to have the business-case prepared. Resistance to HR initiatives often happens because the value to the company’s bottom line is not apparent – so keep your proposals focused on benefits to performance. Fortunately the benefits of delivering gender diversity are significant, widely applicable and well quantified and they’re the sort that business leaders care about, because they’re measured against them.
Here are 3 of the most compelling components of the case:
- Improving gender-balance at the top significantly improves bottom line performance.
Evidence is now overwhelming that the financial performance of companies with a ‘critical mass’* of women at the top is significantly better compared to those without. Probably the most succinct and hard-hitting nugget comes from The Credit Suisse Research Institute who analysed performance of 2,360 companies worldwide between 2006 and 2012 and found that, across that whole period,
‘it would have been better to have invested in corporates with women on their management boards than in those without’**
It’s as simple as that. Businesses make more money with women at the top.
Does it actually matter what it is about having women at the top that makes this difference? No, that’s just another push-back. If this level of performance was the result of investing in a specific type of expensive technology there would be no leadership debate – just buy it now. But unlike IT, addressing gender-imbalance has the additional benefit of requiring no capital outlay – it’s simply a low cost-high return strategy.
And of course, a company that’s doing well is often a better and more attractive organisation to work in which creates a virtuous cycle – a better atmosphere with more opportunities which stimulates a more motivated and therefore productive and loyal workforce .
- Gender-balance throughout an organisation delivers competitive advantage as teams are smarter & innovation is more successful.
Research has found that innovation is most successful when there is 50:50 gender balance on innovation teams. This is thought to be partly because diluting testosterone enables more people to make contributions which are heard and considered – teams are not dominated by the loudest voices or most senior people. It’s also about the impact on team intelligence. Researchers assessing team intelligence found that gender-balance in both real and virtual teams resulted in the highest team intelligence scores.
Having more women on teams isn’t a threat to existing members, it’s a way to ensure they are more successful more consistently.
So, gender-balance is of benefit throughout an organisation, not just at the top.
- Any demonstration of gender bias in behaviour undermines business performance.
Cultures that exhibit even the most subtle and apparently small symptoms of bias which favours one group over another will inevitably underperform versus cultures that demonstrably value all employees.
You may have obvious signs such as gender imbalance in certain functions and levels, however, its often the more day-to-day behaviours demonstrating that members of a certain group are valued less than others that causes disengagement and therefore lowers productivity. You only have to think of a meeting or training course in which you had a great point you wanted to make but despite obvious signs that you wanted to do so you were over-looked – you’ll have instantly withdrawn to some degree. Imagine what it means to receive this response on a regular basis. However, if you’re in HR you probably know this all too well, experiencing this type of dismissive behaviour that makes you feel of less value when you interact with commercial and operational functions.
Companies that don’t address these behaviours undermine their own performance. With appropriate positioning it’s straightforward to implement online assessments which identity any problematic levels of bias in key communities which can then be addressed at group or individual level.
“Launching on February 14th The first annual Women’s Sat Nav to Success Survey will identify the where employers should focus their resources to most effectively support, retain and progress their female talent. Find out more about The Women’s Sat Nav to Success 2017 Survey and/or order your report here”
* A critical mass has been defined as a minimum ratio of 3 women to 7 men.
**Credit Suisse Research Institute, ‘Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance’, August 2012