It’s in every organization’s and every nation’s best economic interest to fully utilize and optimize the talents of women. Gender equality means better performance of teams, of organizations and communities. While we have seen some very focussed and synchronised efforts across the world to accelerate this agenda, we still need to do a lot more - we need more women on boards and in leadership positions, women representation in technology is critical to enable digital inclusion and we must also harness the potential of women entrepreneurs. I believe that gender equality is not a problem to solve, but it is definitely the solution for the most complex challenges.
Despite the benefits women bring to the business and economy, they continue to be underrepresented in the workforce. There are multiple factors that lead to this disparity - socio cultural norms, conscious and unconscious biases, among others.
So how can we make women feel more included? How do we ensure that they do not feel the burden to prove their value? One of the ways in which we must do this is by advocating for their inclusion. I believe it is important for male colleagues to come up as advocates for promoting gender equality simply because they are catalysts who must challenge organizational structures that disadvantage women while remaining committed to the success of the organization. Men in leadership roles can do this by:
- Addressing the unintentional biases.
- Investing in high-potential employees by setting aside investments.
Another important way to do this is by innovating new ways of working to offer flexibility because this will help women balance both their personal and professional goals with greater ease. Introducing programs such as flexi-time arrangements that include the option of telecommuting and part-time working, for instance, should be actively promoted and be seen as enhancements to productivity and not perceived to be career limiting.
We must actively work on getting more women into tech roles and enable them with opportunities to enter, remain and thrive in the world of technology. We can do this by focussed interventions to advance women hiring across roles and levels, fair representation in all development opportunities, pay parity audits to ensure fair pay and a strong sponsorship from leaders.
We must also continue to institute programs and initiatives to help women in the workforce be future ready. This could be done through:
- Mentoring programs where senior leaders act as mentors for high potential women to ensure participants receive challenging client assignments and opportunities to network with other senior leaders.
- Establishing a connection with women currently studying at university level or equivalent. We should promote women students so that they feel empowered even before they start their professional journey.
Numerous studies and reports have shown that gender-balanced companies achieve better results and organizations that advance women into leadership roles are going to benefit with more engaged workforces and improved economic performance. To accelerate women’s growth and close the gender gap in the workplace, equal representation is the need of the hour.
While we know there is a lot to be done, we must all aim to fasten the change required through our inclusive professional development programs. Gender balance at the top means success for both women and men - when the talents of women and men are merged in an organization that puts skills, professionalism and results first, the outcome is a win-win situation for everyone. Times are changing, and the growth for any organization will largely rest upon its ability to leverage the power of diversity and everyone must commit to take affirmative actions to drive change. Equal opportunity. Equal responsibility.
Gender parity must be on our agenda.