Are organizations equipped to be Gender Equality Leaders?
Things are not the same anymore. The representation of women talent in the workplace has increased in the last decade, specifically in corporate roles. Organizations have come to realize the potential of having a diverse workforce. But there needs to be a lot more to just increasing numbers. It is about creating a culture that recognizes female talent, engages with them, and further allows them to grow. But this remains a challenge for companies.
Though companies have managed to attract women talent and increase their representation, the job continues. Mckinsey’s ‘Women at Workplace 2022’ report shows encouraging numbers. At the entry-level, female talent has a representation of almost 50%, and at the managerial level, the representation is 40%.
The challenge is about something other than attracting women talent. The Mckinsey report indicates that the pipeline of women talent starts shrinking as we move up the corporate ladder. At the Vice President level, female talent comprises 32%. At the Senior Vice President level, the number drops to 28%, and at the C-Suite level, we have only 26% of female talent globally.
The lack of a gender-inclusive environment in companies makes women consider leaving their jobs. This attrition is seen more at the middle and leadership levels. As per the Mckinsey report, attrition of women talent at the leadership level has increased over the years. Attrition of women leaders in 2020 stood at a little more than 7%, but in 2021, it rose to 10.5%. Another study by Deloitte in 2022 says that more than 50% of women covered in the survey considered leaving their job. Moreover, 64% of participants were working in middle management roles.
Motivation and job satisfaction are key factors to ensure higher engagement among employees. It is also one of the significant elements in retaining employees. But female talent is facing challenges in this area at the workplace. The Deloitte study concludes that more than a quarter of women have rated their job satisfaction and motivation levels as poor or very poor. The reason for such a bad engagement level in women employees ranges from a lack of opportunity to grow to the need to get paid more for their contribution.
Deloitte surveyed women employees who left their employers post-pandemic. 22% of those females stated lack of opportunity to grow as the main reason, followed by lack of work-life balance (18%) and insufficient pay (18%). There have been such cases in the corporate where it is seen that women employees are made to be engaged in more ‘Office Housework.’ The book ‘The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work’ authored by Brenda Peyser, Laurie R. Weingart, Linda Babcock, and Lise Vesterlund states that after analyzing the employee working hours at a large consultancy firm, it was observed that women spent about 200 more hours on non-promotable tasks compared to men. It concluded that this equated to approximately one month’s worth of dead-end tasks.
Employee burnout has been a major cited issue in the last two-three years. The Deloitte study indicates that 38% of women employees want to leave their jobs due to burnout. It means that there is a lot of work pressure on women, and as per the study, this increase of burnout in females is more common in a post-pandemic era.
The challenge of the gender pay gap is not new. It has been there for a long time, and corporates are still trying to tackle this issue. Biases have led to a higher gender pay gap. That is why 27% of women are considering leaving their jobs due to insufficient pay. Less pay leads to dissatisfaction among employees, making it difficult for them to continue. They prefer looking for better pay elsewhere rather than continuing with the same employer.
More and more female talent, especially leaders, want to work with a brand that genuinely embeds and believes in creating a gender-inclusive workplace. As per the Mckinsey report, women leaders are 1.5 times more likely to leave their job to work for a brand that truly believes in diversity & inclusion. This will allow them to grow in their career and create pathways to inspire other female talent.
The task is tough, and the challenge is real. To create a gender-inclusive workplace, companies need to develop and implement policies promoting such a culture. That would be the first step in making a better place to work and grow for female talent. Many organizations have introduced such progressive policies, which help create a more welcoming culture. Such policies include innovative programs such as a specific targeted women mentoring program, which allows women access to top leadership for mentorship sessions. But, going forward, it also includes some basic policies, such as having a creche for new mothers. This may not be so innovative, but it is fundamental and essential.
Many global and even Indian startups have introduced the menstruation policy in their organization. Companies have realized that women employees have special needs that their peers and managers should recognize. For example, Snapdeal introduced a menstruation policy at their workplace where they decided to give period leaves to female employees. At Snapdeal, women employees are entitled to one day of period leave. To raise awareness, male employees were encouraged to use simulators to experience menstrual cramps so that they could realize the kind of pain women go through during this time.
As per the maternity benefit act 1961, women employees in India are entitled to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, increasing from 12 weeks. Almost all progressive companies in India have complied with this law and have equally recognized the need for the same. As per this policy, women employees get 26 weeks of paid leave during pregnancy. Moreover, a global electronics durable company has also given six weeks of paid paternity leave, which male employees can take flexibly. The idea behind paid paternity leave is that as mothers exhaust their paid maternity leave, fathers can also utilize their paternity leave to take care of the newborn baby as mothers can resume office. In addition, some established startups in India keep the maternity leave policy gender inclusive, and where women get these leaves even in case of child adoption.
Many researchers have established that though women have seen an increased number of participants in mid and entry-level roles, there are very few women in C-suite-level roles. That is why many progressive organizations have created women mentoring circles and programs where they can get access to top leaders in their respective organizations and get coached by them to navigate their careers. This helps female employees be motivated and encouraged to grow in their careers.
POSH (POLICY ON PREVENTION OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN) policy is essential in any big organization. In addition, women employees are protected under the sexual harassment act 2013, where companies need to comply with the POSH policy and have a POSH board to protect and support women in case of any sexual harassment. This further strengthens the workplace culture to build a sense of safety for women employees.
Many global MNCs in the BFSI and FMCG sectors have creche infrastructure built within the company campus. This allows new mothers to bring their toddlers to work and stay stress-free about the care and safety of their newborn babies. Moreover, some companies reimburse female employees for utilizing private creche center services. This allows the mother to create a balance between work and personal life.
The coming days have some rays of hope. The Deloitte study identified some organizations that can be termed as gender equity leaders. The study concludes that female employees working in these firms are far better off than the ones working with companies that lag in being gender-inclusive organizations. In such companies, women encounter fewer instances of non-inclusive behavior, feel more confident about their careers, and feel supported by their employers in mental health issues. In addition, the 2022 research shows that the proportion of women working for Gender Equality Leaders has increased slightly year over year—up from 4% to 5% and women working for gender equality lagging organizations has reduced from 31% in 2021 to 24% in 2022. This indicates that women are getting an opportunity to work for organizations that genuinely care for their diverse set of people. In the future, it will be crucial for organizations to better engage with their female talent. This will help them to attract and retain women talent, especially at the leadership level.