Gender diversity boosts success
It’s one of those ‘buzz words’ in HR, diversity. Diversity policies are commonplace as employers look to recruit from the widest pool of talent. The benefits of having a diverse workforce are well known – it allows organisations to reflect their customer bases more accurately and make more informed decisions and it brings a wider range of knowledge, skills and ideas to the table.
What’s more, research indicates that gender diversity actually boosts success – according to McKinsey, European organisations with the highest proportion of women in influential leadership roles showed better than average financial performance.
Why is female talent hard to find?
There's clearly a strong case for having a diverse workforce then, however it's easier said than done, especially when it comes to sectors like IT in which women are very much a minority. For many firms, it’s not that they’re not hiring women, they just can’t find them. Finding female talent in IT can be a challenge when men outnumber women 4:1 and women continue to leave the sector for other careers or for family commitments.
We also find that generally women are more loyal to their employers and move jobs less than their male counterparts. Anecdotal evidence shows that many women also lack confidence in their own ability and do not apply for as many roles as they feel they are not qualified enough. All these factors combined means less active female job seekers.
Embrace women's needs
Given these difficulties, what steps can organisations take to get their hands on more female talent? Just having a diversity policy is not enough – businesses must be seen to really practice what they preach. This means enforcing flexible working and practices which make the workplace friendlier to women, not just including this in a diversity policy to tick the appropriate boxes.
Internal support networks and women’s groups also often work well to both encourage female talent to an organisation. An example is IT company Connect which has an initiative called ‘Google Girls’ – a group for its female IT engineers which organises regular events and also mentoring for new talent.
Consider a diversity supplier
Using a diversity supplier is also a great way to find a wider range of talent. With the new Equality Act, the rules and regulations surrounding positive discrimination and the likes, diversity suppliers can sometimes be viewed with a degree of confusion, or caution. However, using a diversity supplier can be an effective way of finding the talent that an organisation may not have the time or ability to reach. Rather than supplying female candidates only, a diversity supplier will work to increase the flow of female candidates, as well as working with men. The best person for the role will ultimately succeed but putting more women into that recruitment process is the main aim.
Celebrate gender differences
Women themselves are perhaps best placed to say what businesses can do to increase the number and success of women in sectors like IT. In a recent survey that we conducted, female technologists gave a range of solutions to the problem, but many fit into the same categories. A main theme was more support, in the form of more flexibility for female employees, help managing their careers and also the availability of mentoring and coaching.
Others said that businesses should celebrate the successes that women achieve and the skills they bring, with one woman saying: “Men and women do, for the most part, think, act and communicate differently. The most successful teams, in my experience, are those where these differences are celebrated and made the most of. Too often, I have witnessed women trying to behave like men, because they feel (sometimes quite correctly) that that is the only way to get on.” Another common answer was encouraging students to pursue IT subjects and careers and to provide more female role models.
Increasing diversity for success
So what's the next step when it comes to diversity? Will we resort to quotas like in Norway? It’s clear that there is still a lot that needs to be done, but there’s not a magic solution. To get more women involved in male-dominated careers we need to encourage them to do so much earlier, and support them all the way. The ‘motherhood penalty’ also needs to be addressed and parental leave must become more equal. Although such measures are out of our hands, small changes will begin to make a difference.
Having a diverse workforce is crucial to the future success of UK plc, so whether it’s becoming a mentor, talking to students or using a diversity supplier, every little helps.