Despite organizations making gender diversity a priority – through active encouragement from the leadership, the setting of aspirational gender diversity goals, and insisting on gender diversity in leadership positions – the results have been far from encouraging.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2020 highlighted that gender diversity significantly impacts an economy’s chances of success. A country’s gender gap could adversely affect its economic success and its influence on the global stage. A McKinsey report found that removing the gender gap could help add up to $12 to $28 trillion to the global GDP.
Firms have increasingly begun to recognize the business case for gender diversity and have been pushing for diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. The recognition by businesses of the importance of diversity is reflected in the recruiting trends observed across the globe. According to a LinkedIn report, 62% of companies focus on diversity for superior financial performance, and 78% of firms prioritize diversity to build an improved work culture.
The HR and leadership teams of firms have a significant role in any meaningful impact on fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the organization. Most organizations have some HR hacks to help them reach diversity and inclusion targets.
The top 20 hacks that HR teams use to ensure gender diversity at the workplace include:
- Eliminating unconscious biases: The first step in any change initiative is understanding existing biases. Among them, our unconscious biases lie beneath the surface and may not even align with our conscious beliefs. HR teams must help employees understand the impact of unconscious biases, the actions that reinforce them, and how they can be overcome.
- Discuss the importance of managing biases: Cultural humility is key to fostering inclusivity. This helps people be curious about other cultures. It is crucial, through training, to help people develop cultural humility to ensure that people remain curious and respectful of different cultures and experiences.
- Create commitment to eliminate barriers: Help employees develop the commitment to overcome obstacles thwarting diversity. The barriers could be in the hiring process, onboarding, work arrangements, etc.
- Create an inclusive workforce: Create an inclusive work environment before even building a gender-diverse workplace. The work environment must make it a good place to work for people of all genders. This sets up a virtuous cycle with an overall positive impact on gender diversity.
- Improve job descriptions: Removing gender bias from the language used in the job description is among the basic steps needed to build a gender-diverse workplace. The language in the job description should communicate inclusivity.
- Source from a diverse pipeline: To build a diverse workforce, it is essential to proactively source a workforce that is gender-diverse. This can be done by accessing sourcing platforms meant for underrepresented groups.
- Ensure diversity in the interview panel: Including women in the interview, the panel is comforting to the women candidates. It signals to prospective candidates that the organization is serious about gender diversity and values the contribution of women to the organization.
- Use skills-based assessments: Using skills-based assessments and structured interviews during recruitment helps guard against biases. Grading the performance using standardized criteria eliminates unconscious biases.
- Ensuring pay equity: HR managers must level the field for all employees to be judged fairly for pay and advancement. A US department of labor study found that for every dollar men earned, women earned only 82 cents with the same qualifications. If the aim is to hire the very best talent, it is essential that the terms of compensation are fair and there is no gender gap in salaries.
- Run training programs: Training programs on diversity help employees understand how diversity impacts people’s work and interactions at work. The training should be customized for the specific organisation, its diversity and inclusion goals, and its challenges. It is also important to communicate the purpose of the training and how it furthers the organization’s goals to keep the employees committed to the training.
- Celebrate holidays of all cultures: Increasing awareness of and celebrating the holidays of all the people represented in the organization is an excellent way of bringing an awareness of diversity and fostering inclusivity. Be respectful of these days when planning meetings and be accommodating of the needs of employees from different cultures.
- Encourage employee resource groups: Employee resource groups help foster an inclusive culture and develop connections between employees. HR personnel and the leadership can also be members of these groups. Employees must be encouraged to set up more such groups to foster relationships.
- Mix-up teams: A team with members drawn from diverse personal and professional backgrounds powers varied perspectives and encourages creativity and innovation.
- Have women coach men: Having women coach men allows people to learn about different working and leadership styles. Women coaching men will encourage empathy and cooperation and foster greater understanding of each other as people.
- System of continuous feedback: Receiving feedback is the surest means of understanding employees’ true feelings. Surveys are an effective means of collecting feedback.
- Shared parental leave: Traditionally, women bear a significantly larger proportion of childcare responsibilities. Even in firms where shared parental leave is available, only about 2% of couples exercise this option. Many men find it difficult to take time off for financial and cultural reasons. Make it culturally acceptable for men to assume childcare responsibilities. This will enable men and women to take leave for childcare responsibilities without adversely affecting either of their careers.
- Promote workplace well-being: Although compensation is probably the factor with the most significant impact on gender equality, a workplace that is sensitive to providing employees with a good work-life balance will encourage women to join the organization.
- Periodic policy reviews: Review the company’s policies regularly to see if they are discriminatory or perpetuate some undesirable HR practices.
- Use feedback from exit interviews: Exit interviews help identify the specific reasons causing employees to leave. For example, if you find that women leave the organization due to an actual or perceived gender-based pay gap, you can correct your compensation policy.
- Track and review progress: Gender diversity programs are long-term initiatives. Periodic progress reviews help learn what is being done right and what is not working.
Any significant progress on gender diversity has been elusive for most organizations. At best, progress has been patchy, with two steps forward and one step back. What is required is a planned and sustained effort, requiring the participation of the HR team, the leadership, and all the employees for organizations to truly achieve gender diversity.
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