Article: A practical and measurable approach to creating a gender-balanced workplace


A practical and measurable approach to creating a gender-balanced workplace

Here is an outline of some of the effective and proven actions you can take now to create a gender-balanced workplace. The future is in the balance! Take the right actions now and make D&I efforts work for your organization.
A practical and measurable approach to creating a gender-balanced workplace

Organizations around the world understand the need for diversity and are putting in efforts to create a more inclusive workplace. However, programs designed to increase diversity and inclusion in the workplace often fail. For example, most organizations still struggle with unconscious biases interfering with recruitment decision-making - even those with the most sophisticated recruitment technologies in place.


We recently launched our very first Women at Work Survey 2021– A D&I Benchmarking Study and found the greatest barrier as to why the D&I efforts aren’t working contributes to:

  • The general attitude of indifference
  • A sense that the workforce is sufficiently diverse
  • Insufficient mentoring for non-traditional employees

Recently, People Matters conducted a virtual panel discussion to brainstorm on the outcome-based actions that you will take today to accelerate the movement of the gender equality needle. The conversation which led by Ester Martinez, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, People Matters along with our special panelists- Carine Rolland, People & Culture Leader- APAC, ManpowerGroup, Maria Teixidor, CEO, VUCA Solutions, and Shraddhanjali Rao, Head HR - SAP, India, addressed a series of themes and topics like:

  • Assessing and including your D&I big rocks into your business planning
  • Establishing goals and accountability with KPI-driven D&I targets
  • Getting the right tools and strategy to promote more women into leadership roles
  • Rethinking men’s ability to lead organizations towards a gender-balanced workforce
  • Reorganizing teams at work to facilitate gender-balanced organizations 

The experts came together and weighed in on how organizations can make women thrive in the workplace, as well as how they can get more women in leadership, how they can attract, retain and leverage top talent to cultivate a more diverse workforce, create more male allies in the workforce, and some of the key lead indicators of a gender-balanced workplace– promotions & succession planning, HIPO programs, salary reviews, etc. Based on their inputs, here are key reflections for organizations on approaching and actually moving the needle in the right direction.

Gender equality needs to organization’s core strategy than a CSR strategy

We are in the middle of a global shift where we are becoming aware of the fact that organizations play a huge role not only in delivering value to the shareholders but also in constructing the society they operate in. And the organizations need to be aware of the shift that has been brought about by the various inequality that is present in the societies. One of the points that have been stated in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is Gender Equality which says, Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. 

Organizations (Employers) need to recognize the fact that we need to embrace D&I which is more than a CSR strategy but a core strategy that creates a gender-balanced workplace, and hence, more gender-balanced societies. 

Why haven’t we able to tick the D&I clock?

According to the latest findings of a report by McKinsey, many employees have considered organizations’ inclusiveness while making career decisions, yet almost half of all respondents do not feel very included at their organizations. Most respondents, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, say they encounter barriers to a sense of inclusion.

Why haven’t been able to make a shift?

Shraddhanjali Rao, Head HR - SAP, India and the author of ‘ Why blend in when you can stand out?” touch upon the five barriers to achieving a gender-balanced workplace.

  • Cascading D&I maturity across levels:

The business case for diversity & inclusion started with CSR and then it moved to achieve business value, however, only among the top leadership. We haven’t been able to cascade the story of ROI into a meaningful conversation.

For example, we still try to convince leaders that if I hire diversely, I will be able to retain better. Organizations haven’t been able to move that equation to innovation which is where the curve goes out of the graph. 

  • Mid-management is your linchpin to D&I efforts

To a very large extent, we believe that D&I is the prerogative of HR and the top leader or CXOs in the organization. Your linchpin is your mid-management and your first-level management. As an organization, we have known them as professionals and we have not invested enough. And that's where our weakest link is because for our employees' diversity and inclusion is an everyday matter and adjust a one day like that you celebrate like Women's Day. It's their everyday experiences and we have to step up an investment that not only goes into leadership but at all levels.

  • Lack of due diligence before adopting any ‘best practice’

As HR folks, we really get excited when we hear about best practices. However, before we take it back to the organization and implement it, we should spend time understanding what is the problem. While the challenge may be the same– retention of women in mid-management across two industries, you have to peel that onion a little bit. Due diligence is required before we adopt practices as that is what is going to make it a best practice.

  • Look at lagging indicators:

Our view of tracking practices is extremely backward-looking as we basically measure how we landed at the end of the year. It's not a very enjoyable experience because you don't know where you're landing. And hence, it is critical to measure leading indicators and not just lagging indicators. You need to have milestones where you will measure progress and behavior, and not just the output.

  • A cross-functional & diverse D&I team:

D&I has to have a cross-functional team and it doesn't mean a cross-functional team within HR. Make sure when you build a D&I team in your organization, it has people across different roles and levels. That's how you are going to build the true culture sustainably. 

Adding to this list of barriers, Carine Rolland, People & Culture Leader- APAC, ManpowerGroup shares, “Creating a gender-balanced workplace is not a topic which only a woman should address and should take initiative. Further, often in such projects or initiatives we always tend to talk about the challenges faced by women and finding the solution and taking actions– all being discussed, moderated, and addressed by women; men are not always invited. We need men to solve this gender imbalance challenge.”

Getting right about measuring and tracking D&I

Diversity should be embedded into the entire talent management cycle–from recruitment to selection, through development, promotion to succession planning, and retention and engagement. Here are the key steps:

  • The goals need to be clear and ambitious. According to Carine, if you don’t set clear goals, you wouldn’t be able to achieve them.

"At ManpowerGroup, we have a very clear objective of achieving 40% of women in leadership by 2024. I'm pretty sure that all organizations have set goals. Yes, it is a challenging goal, however, if we don't set clear goals, we wouldn’t be able to achieve them," shares Carine.

  • Setting diversity targets and goal is difficult, and needs to be done cautiously. The goal should be ambitious enough to encourage efforts and commitment, but then need to be as well realistic. 
  • Additionally, it's equally important to assign responsibility and establish accountability so once targets and goals are set, responsibility for the achievement should be assigned to individuals and will be held accountable through scorecards.
  • Besides other things, we need to communicate honestly about what goals do we want to achieve, why we want to achieve, and how we plan to achieve. This fosters trust and encourages accountability.
  • Finally, organizations need to review metrics regularly is key. 

"Metrics alone won't shift the needle. We need to create a culture of conscious inclusion and, again, being very transparent on what we mean and we want."


- Carine Rolland, People & Culture Leader- APAC, ManpowerGroup

Getting men as the agents of change in the journey of creating a gender-balanced workplace

If we are serious about achieving gender balance in the workplace, we need to make sure that men are actively engaged as partners with women. And the very basic point to start with is to tell men that they are also allowed to be completely human. 

Gender-imbalance is not a men’s issue or a women’s issue but it is an issue for all of us and we would have to acknowledge it. We have to shift the mindset and look at men as bread providers for their households but also accept that they are also caregivers. Men need to embrace this other side of their personality.

Maria shares, “ I have always thought that one of the most feminist leaders that we know is Barack Obama. So, Obama is a man and he's not less than a man because he has his feminine side I think these attributes that we have always given to women, as opposed to men, the yin and the yang, and that it's over at any person and starting from the point that you know it's not a binary system of gender we're saying that so every human being has all of this damage. And I think this is something that, we need to embrace. “

And how do we do it?

One of the ways is to make benefits gender-neutral. For example, corporates started up with maternity leaves. However, later they realized the need for four-week paternity leave. 

"I think men are held to standards as well which they don't want to be. So let's humanize affectations of both genders to make it work" 
- Maria Teixidor, CEO, VUCA Solutions

Looking ahead:

Organizations need to be cognizant about the support that women would require into a different phase of their life– marriage, maternity, family responsibilities and they would have to put more effort to make the interventions and processes work. 

Further, there is a need to make the right conversation and improve women’s confidence. Quoting examples shared by Shraddhanjali on the mindset of most women employees for not feeling 100 percent ready for a leadership role or not making enough noise about their work or accomplishments assuming their “work” would talk. 

Managers and leaders would have to offer support, confidence, and visibility besides a number of programs and interventions to really make the D&I programs work. 

Missed the session, watch the entire conversation here and get all the insights into creating a gender-balanced workplace.

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Topics: Diversity, #SheMatters, #ChooseToChallenge

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