The ‘Women in the Workplace’ report shows how gender diversity can be achieved if companies take specific actions.
LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company have published the Women in the Workplace study annually since 2015. This year, the report captures 279 companies employing more than 13 million people. Additionally, LeanIn and McKinsey spoke to 64,000 employees on their workplace experiences. This year’s report also contains interviews of women from different races and ethnicities, as well as those from the LGBTQ community.
The first major finding of the report is that women continue to be dramatically outnumbered in senior leadership. Only about one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and only one in 25 is a woman of colour. When we look at India, the challenge of colour is replaced by issues like caste, social bracket and cultural associations.
The differences are endless, but how does one bridge the divide? What do companies do and how do they look at diversity and inclusive workplaces? According to the Women in the Workplace report, there are six key factors that can make a difference:
The basics – set goals, track milestones and make people answerable
According to the Women in the Workplace report, setting goals, tracking and reporting on progress and rewarding success are key to driving organisational change. More than 90 percent companies surveyed said they prioritise gender and racial diversity because it leads to better business results, but the message is not reaching employees. Only 42 percent employees think this is the case for gender diversity, and only 22 percent think it’s the case for racial diversity.
According to the Global Recruiting Trends 2018 by LinkedIn and based on a survey of 8,815 recruiters across the world, including 1,013 from India, diversity is connected with company culture and financial performance.
The report states that the biggest barriers to improving diversity are finding diverse candidates to interview (38 percent ), retaining diverse employees (14 percent), getting diverse candidates past interview stage (8 percent) and getting diverse candidates to accept the offer (14 percent).
Hiring and promotions minus the unconscious bias
Companies are not hiring and promoting women at equal rates and an unconscious bias has a major role to play.
“Very few companies train employees to recognise and push back against bias in hiring and promotions. Just 19 percent of companies require unconscious bias training for employees involved in hiring. A mere 4 percent require training for employees involved in performance reviews. And only about a third remind employees to take steps to avoid bias at the outset of both processes.”
Another important point to track is concerning reviews and how bias impacts them. Women in the Workplace report makes a great point. “…companies are far less likely to track bias in performance reviews—for example, to see if women’s communication styles are criticised more often than men’s—yet performance reviews play a major role in who gets promoted and who doesn’t.”
Senior leaders and managers have to be champions of gender diversity
Only 39 percent of women and 47 percent of men think gender diversity is a high priority for their manager. Just 22 percent of women and 30 percent of men say their manager provides guidance on how to improve gender diversity according to the report.
For organisational change, leaders have to drive diversity and inclusion. “When employees have a manager who regularly challenges bias, as opposed to one who rarely does, they are more likely to think that everyone has an equal chance to advance at work—and they are less likely to think their gender has played a role in their missing out on a raise or promotion,” says the report.
Inclusive and respectful culture needs to be fostered
It’s not just about driving the culture and values of the company, but also highlighting and communicating that there is no room for sexual harassment, disrespect, bias, and when needed, stringent actions will be taken.
Women in the Workplace report points out that although women deal with more everyday slights and disrespectful behaviour than men, 58 percent of all employees experience some type of microaggression, suggesting incivility is common at work.
Not the “only” one
The higher they go, the more women find themselves alone is rooms and that often makes them feel isolated. Companies need to stop having two women in the boardroom because it ticks a box. According to the report, companies need to examine and explore how they can move women through their organisation.
The report states, “One approach is to hire and promote women in cohorts; another is to cluster women on teams. As opposed to staffing one woman on a number of teams, companies should consider putting groups of two to three women on teams together. And of course, it’s important to think twice before clustering women in functions traditionally dominated by women, like human resources and communications. This can reinforce gender stereotypes.”
The other thing companies can do it to create opportunities for the “only” women in the room to connect with other women, and more women networking groups should be fostered within the companies.
Offer employees the flexibility to fit work in their lives
While many companies provide flexible work hours, most don’t really benefit from it. Sometimes managers are biased and unsupportive when it comes to flexi hours, sometimes the culture is such that most women avoid taking flexi work hours because of the fear of being labelled. Hence, women are not able to avail or fully utilise flexible work hours. Here’s some data that the report throws:
Forty-one percent of employees have children at home, and 17 percent do not benefit from the support of a partner in the house. Although balancing work and family is an issue for both women and men, it continues to weigh more heavily on women: across all races and ethnicities, women are far more likely than men to do most or all of the household work, in addition to their day jobs.
Just 45 percent employees say their manager regularly helps them balance work and personal demands— and women and men feel equally unsupported.
Time for companies to make flexi hours a reality, and approach it with a mindset that goes to support women positively than appear as something that women need because they can’t manage work and home.
With the #MeToo movement exposing how rampant sexual harassment at the workplace is, it becomes pertinent for organisations to address the unconscious bias, become more inclusive and create an environment that helps diversity and inclusivity to thrive.
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