Organizations today, have been vociferous about their commitment to gender diversity, but are struggling to put this commitment to focus and action. The easiest way to surmount this challenge is to position gender diversity as a business imperative necessary for improving bottom and topline growth.
The question that arises now is, ‘How a better workplace can be created for women employees?’ A combination of Thrust and Trust with amalgamation of five ‘W’s (What, Why, When, Where, Who) and one ‘H’ (How).
Thrust - where every employer should drive or push the Diversity agenda
Trust - where every women works with confidence and conviction for their career aspirations
Let’s see the steps:
Step 1: Leadership commitment
Anything without leadership commitment does not sustain over a period of time. It is important to get the leadership team to be the executive sponsor of Diversity and Inclusion. Securing leadership commitment can be done by identifying your organization’s need for an inclusive and harmonious workplace. The next step is to chalk a clear vision of what your organization wants to achieve. Create a clear implementation plan by breaking these commitments into short, medium and long term goals. Leaders have to demonstrate their commitment, accountability. They need to communicate regularly on the subject and be a role models in adoption of practices that promote diversity and inclusion.
Anything without leadership commitment does not sustain over a period of time. It is important to get the leadership team to be the executive sponsor of Diversity and Inclusion. Securing leadership commitment can be done by identifying your organization’s need for an inclusive and harmonious workplace. The next step is to chalk a clear vision of what your organization wants to achieve. Create a clear implementation plan by breaking these commitments into short, medium and long-term goals. Leaders have to demonstrate their commitment, accountability. They need to communicate regularly on the subject and be role models in the adoption of practices that promote diversity and inclusion.
5W and 1H Approach
• What: What is my organization’s commitment? Chalk out clear targets. Some examples of goals are: women recruitment targets, number of women to be developed as leaders, creation of support systems etc.
• Why: Why organizations need to do this? Think about what is the business imperative or benefits achieved by bringing in gender diversity at the workplace. Example: women have different viewpoints with respect to problem solving, market insights, team building and so on
• When: Whenever the organization is ready to take up this lead, it should start focusing on this commitment. Do not do it just because there is peer pressure or customers are asking for it or simply because it is a check in the box. The time is right when the organization as a whole and senior management firmly believe that gender diversity and inclusion are necessary to take the organization to the next level of growth
• Where: Where should the Diversity and Inclusion (D and I) agenda be discussed? At the board level or in conference room? The D and I agenda or commitment for creating a greater workplace for women should be discussed at every forum. Some viable discussion forums are team meetings, hiring team discussions with recruiters, town hall meetings among others.
• Who: Who all should be involved in making this commitment? Bring on board every person who has voiced the need to make the workplace a better and inclusive workplace for women. Start engaging in discussion with support staff, vendors, clients, customers, managers, academia and senior leadership.
• How: Finally how do I make this commitment work? In order to sustain all of the commitments made, have a structured focus discussion with all the relevant stakeholders, make gender diversity a business priority, set inclusive goals, move away from quota system there by creating inclusive workplace.
Step 2: Creating support systems for inclusive workplace
What do support systems mean? Creating support systems means making reasonable modification or enhancements where ever required in terms of policies, infrastructure, benefits, flexibility, work- life balance, and specific job roles, buddy systems, mentoring programs, reverse mentoring programs that make the workplace woman friendly. Some instances are Women empowerment programs, coach, grievance handling Mechanisms, Employee Support groups or network communities, child care support systems, thereby understanding the needs of every women and making them inclusive.
What is it that the organization needs to do? Some immediate actionable items are
A) Recruitment process: how to attract diverse talent? Are recruiters trained to look for and attract the right women workforce?
B) Retention: Once women have been recruited on merit, what is the right form of induction and orientation? How do we retain women by focusing on their development? Right feedback at appropriate time is necessary for productivity and job satisfaction.
A host of policies and infrastructural support is required in every company, which are designed to provide women employees with a seamless work environment. Polices such as Reasonable accommodation, Flexi work options, Parental leaves, Child care facility, Women only App and deployment programs have contributed significantly to create a woman friendly work environment.
Step 3: Attack unconscious bias
There are certain stereotypes pertaining to roles of men and women that affect our actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. These actions result in an unconscious bias. More often than not a manager may not be conscious of such a bias at all. How can this be fixed? Train managers, recruiters, and leaders on recognizing these biases. Men should play a role of advocate in women’s advancement.
Step 4: Bridging the gap
Workplaces need to be made conducive for women employees to flourish. At the entry level, we see a lot of women entering the workforce. After 3 to 4 years we see more and more women opting out of employment. Why is this happening? Women at this age are entering into their family lives. Marriage, Maternity, and Motherhood are 3 major turning points in the lives of most women. Hence they find it difficult to maintain a balance between work and life. This gap can be bridged by bringing in changes to parental leave, providing flexibility options, introducing returning to work programs, retention policies etc.
Step 5: Effective communication and evaluation
It is imperative that the employer communicates Diversity goals, agenda and achievements to the entire organization else all efforts in this direction will go unnoticed. It is important to involve each and every employee and manager during planning for any specific Diversity & Inclusion goal/program. Focused group discussions must be conducted. Women buy in is necessary since they are the largest stakeholder and emphasize behavioral expectations. Once communicated, make sure the outcome of a particular program is measured. Some of the programs may have tangible and intangible benefits, some of the parameters cannot be measured such as “Wow factor”. However, results that are tangible must be measured and communicated effectively to both employees and management.