• Gender Diversity in Organizations: What’s The Reality?

    Life is a tragedy for those who feel, and comedy for those who think – Charlie Chaplin

    I can’t help feeling both tragic and comic when I think of gender diversity in organizations. When I started writing on the topic, a lot of thoughts emerged in my mind. However, I wasn’t sure which side I should represent – an optimistic view that says that we have done a lot for women in organizations or pessimistic view that believes that much hasn’t been achieved for women at workplace. Or there could be a 3rd view, that of a realist. To see things as they are.

    Recently, I attended Vipassana in the Himalayas, and there I learnt to observe reality as it is. So I will try to make an attempt to present views of a realist to you, of course with my own biases. My hobby is reading, I come across lot of research articles on women. I will share those research findings with you.

    I consider myself a feminist. A feminist is someone who believes in women having equal rights as men at the workplace, at home, in society. So if you believe that women should have equal rights and fight for it, you are a feminist.

    I come from an organization which has an established reputation for celebrating diversity. Our CEO is a woman, Ginny Rometty (IBM), which says a lot about how much we value & celebrate gender diversity at work.

    But the figures can vary across sectors and organizations and few can boast of gender ethics as I see it. Look at these:

    • Around 40% organizations anticipate more female employees at the mid-level in their workforce, however; only 5% see a rise in number of women at CXO levels, reveals the latest Times Jobs study on gender diversity in India

    The survey reveals that

    • 40% organizations are ‘doing’ diversity to access a wide talent pool
    • 25% are diverse to improve business performance
    • 20% surveyed organizations said they are doing it to enhance corporate reputation/brand image
    • 10% are doing it for better corporate governance
    • 5% are doing it out of compulsion as they are pressured to take it up by internal and external stakeholders

    Across the world, governments and organizations are waking up to the prudence of building diverse and inclusive workplaces. In India, there is still more reason to celebrate and promote women’s hiring, as it can lead to a sizeable additional economic growth and could add $700 billion to the country’s GDP in 2025 (McKinsey Global Institute, 2015).

    The report titled, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in India, claims that this economic impact could translate into incremental GDP growth of 1.4 per cent per year for the country. Bridging gender gap would also add $12 trillion to global GDP in 2025.

    For every 100 girls that enrol for education, just about 47 or so reach the high-school level. And then, when you talk of graduation and post-graduation, the number drops to may be 15, 16. And then, not just that, it’s also believed that, even out of the workforce-ready women, about 75 to 78 per cent do not join the organized workforce.”

    There are several business benefits of gender diversity, hence many executives root for a more diverse workforce. Such teams, as per the Gallup study, perform better than single gender ones by enabling different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights. These together lead to better problem solving and superior performance. Diverse teams help companies to serve a growing diverse customer base better.

    The business case of gender diversity is borne out by the fact that organizations which have higher level of women leadership, had 30 per cent higher return in equity and 34 per cent higher total return to shareholders. Not only this, across the consumer industry 70 to 80 per cent of all bank transactions are influenced by women. Women, even those without independent financial resources, influence purchase decisions, and since a large part of consumer class is women; who could understand them the best?

    But of course women! The economics of all these cumulative reasons has lately led to the belief that woman talent must form an integral part of the workforce. Clearly, a large population with such veto power cannot be ignored!

    Despite strong evidence on the business case of gender diversity, we are far off from assimilating women into our workforce especially after maternity break.

    Research suggests that women pay the motherhood penalty. Do you agree?

    While most leaders are stressing the importance of gender diversity across various forums, the Times Job study reveals that there still lies a yawning gap between aspiration and reality, which needs to be addressed by India Inc. for it to truly realize the potential of diversity.

    About the Author – @rucsb . Ruchi Bhatia is IIM-C Alumni and Recruitment Branding Lead @ IBM. She has over 16 years of professional work experience across Sales, Operations, OD, Corporate Training, HR , Learning Consulting, WorkForce Partnering, and as Professional Development Leader .