The gender gap
Global gender gap has closed by only 4% in the last 10 years, according to the World Economic Forum.
In a research partnership with LinkedIn, WEF examined workforce gender ratio in entry level, middle management and senior leadership positions across sectors. Unsurprisingly, the research uncovered that although women are predominant in education, health and non-profit, there is a lack of pipeline of women going into sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, construction and the ICT industry. Further, in every sector, there are more men than women in leadership positions.
Businesses, governments and civil societies therefore need to reflect on institutional culture, structures, and policies to advance gender equality and ensure an inclusive growth.
Closing the gender gap
An increasing number of companies continue to adopt gender responsive policies to support and encourage the participation of female employees through mentorship and re-entry programs. EY partners with organizations across the globe to accelerate the inclusion of women. Google, for example, encourages female employees to seek promotions while Microsoft released its unconscious bias training, free for all.
In stride with the global climate, Indian government’s Budget 2018 announced that for the first 3 years of employment women employees’ PF contribution will be reduced to 8% from the current 12%, without any change in the employer’s contribution. A decisive step in the direction of gender equality, it enables higher take home salaries and incentivizes more women to take up formal employment.
Employee centric HRM policies that prioritize work-life balance/family leaves can significantly make an impact towards retention of women in the workforce. The Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Act, 2017 enforces laws that address these aspects. Under this Act, many employers in India are required to provide off-site day care/crèche services and increase paid maternity leaves for employees. Some countries go even further to prioritize family friendly companies for government contracts.
Technology for bridging the gap
Smart HR solutions can pull employee data points across different information systems such as payroll, attendance, performance, L&D, and self service portals to identify biased or discriminatory practices and processes, and recommend areas for redressal. For example, AI led talent management solutions, also known as blind hiring technology, remove subconscious biases in hiring decisions of managers, by filtering select information/attributes such as gender, ethnicity and religion.
Organizations should leverage technology enabled employee engagement solutions that facilitate and encourage proactive practices, recognize achievements, and track employee pulse through periodic feedback to enforce and implement inclusive policies. Wellness initiatives that support women’s mental, physical and financial well being through custom learning and development programs and digital support networks, also go a long way in sensitizing and educating employees on issues related to inclusion.
Why do it
Women make up half the world’s population and constitute the world’s largest consumer market. Organizations are likely to innovate and add value better, when they have on board representatives of this target market. Gender sensitive/responsive policies are therefore an imperative for a holistic and sustainable development.
As women continue to break the glass ceiling and claim success stories with their visionary leadership across tech and other industries, businesses only stand to gain from a workplace and culture built on gender equality.