It’s the age old battle of girls vs boys and it continues as we get older, men vs women! The EU’s plans to impose quotas are still some way off, but there is a general acceptance if member states do not move to a more diverse board structure voluntarily, legislators will enforce quotas in order to increase the pace of change and ensure female representation in listed companies across Europe.
Surely its common sense that a diverse workforce, not just meaning men vs woman, naturally leads to a diverse pool of talent, ideas, different approaches to decision making and perspectives. Isn’t that what every innovative company wants to grow and expand? The future of any business depends on the people behind the brand name, but does this mean we should be thinking about imposing quotas forcing companies to take on women where they usually wouldn’t have? I’m not a scary crazy man basher, but I do believe women have as much to offer as men do in business. Even The Apprentice final was between two women last year. However, we continually see figures showing that only 17% of the cabinet, 15% of partners in top law firms and 11% of executive committee members in leading companies are female. What’s the cause of these astounding figures is it because women don’t work as hard as men or that they don’t have the intelligence? No of course not in fact there are more than 2.4 million unemployed women who want to work!
In reality it means radically altering the deeply ingrained masculinity that can be found in most large organisations. Women shouldn’t have to behave more like men to reach the top, but perhaps a shift away from a more masculine culture is the way forward. Why does it have to be dog eat dog in business, cannot good performance and a desire to better yourself not be enough for women to achieve promotion? Why should women have to fight that much harder than men to prove themselves? The answer is they shouldn’t. Equality is not just morally important, but important for the future of business, but are quotas the answer? Do women want a job because the company’s quota says they need a woman instead of a man to meet their targets? Don’t women want to know they achieved their promotion on merit?
Outside of political circles, support for quotas is low. The vast majority of directors are concerned that the introduction of quotas will result in a move away from the merit based selection in order to ensure delivery against arbitrary targets. Boards will only be convinced that diversity matters where they can see a correlation between diversity in the workplace and where profitability rises.
Six steps to gender balance:
- Know your numbers – what are the gender percentages within the company, at board level, at management level, at department level.
- Everything starts at the top – Get the decision makers to buy-in. Once the CEO and senior team members understand their pivotal role in setting the precedent behaviours can start to change and filter through the hierarchy.
- Culture change – It’s about a shift away from a more masculine culture. Recognising that just because a woman operates differently to a man or does not act as aggressively that she does not have the acumen to succeed.
- Open minds – Put some hard work into changing mind sets across the organisation. It’s the dominant majority that will make change happen.
- Initiatives – Identify areas that are particularly male heavy and target initiatives at these areas.
- Keep going! – It’s not an easy fix so things won’t change overnight, but implementing new initiatives and changing cultures are a long-term step to improving gender balance.
From the HR Rev Bloggers!