Gender Disparity in the Workplace: Helping Companies to Close the Gap
A 2015 McKinsey study found that companies reported higher profits when they had more women in leadership roles and on boards of directors, compared to companies with lower numbers of women in those positions.1 Another study in “Diversity, Social Goods Provision, and Performance in the Firm,” found with eight years of revenue data that an evenly gender-split office, compared to an all-male or all-female office, increased revenue by approximately 41%.2
Many companies seek a workforce with a diversity of experiences to bring new and fresh ideas to the workplace, and increase efficiency and profitability. However, despite numerous studies regarding gender disparity issues and the push for greater equality in the workplace, there is still a stark level of disparity in numbers, especially at the senior level. For instance, at the entry level, the genders were hired at an almost equal rate. In contrast, by the time they reached the C-suite level, women only held one-fifth of the positions.3 For women of color, the disparity was even more pronounced, with only 4% holding senior positions.4
In October 2017, The Wall Street Journal published a piece called “The Hidden Battle of the Sexes at Work,” which examined the basis for ongoing gender inequality in the workplace, and initiatives that promote gender diversity.5 According to the article, part of the problem was a lack of awareness that gender disparity was still an active problem that needed proactive solutions.6 The following is a list of solutions addressed in the article that companies have created to solve the gender gap:
1. Cultivating the Applicant Pool
Some companies have been proactive in increasing the female applicant pool by recruiting women while they are still in college. In 2015, Blackstone Group LP created a resume building and interviewing skills program for potential female recruits while they were sophomores in college. Within a few years, the number of women who held entry-level analyst positions at the company rose from 15% to 40% as a result of this initiative.
2. Diversity in Interviews
At other companies, such as Lyft Inc., managers are required to have at least one woman and one minority in the final interview round for high-level positions. This is especially important at companies like Lyft Inc., where only 36% of leadership positions are held by women and only 18% of the tech staff are women.
3. Mentorship from Managers
Another key to unlocking a change in gender disparity may be a focus on mentorship from midlevel managers. Elisabeth Kelan, a professor of leadership at Cranfield School of Management, found that inclusive managers helped women to climb the career ladder when they gave women “stretch assignments” to challenge their skills, extolled their achievements to colleagues and higher-ups, and stopped behavior that alienated women.
4. Diversity Training & Awareness
At National Life Group, a financial services company, they evaluated their managers every year on how they met goals of encouraging a diverse culture where employees could speak their mind. Chief Executive Mehran Assadi looks at each hiring or promotion decision with the thought, “Are we getting enough diversity of thinking here?” Reflective awareness of gender issues and continued education of managers improved the company’s number of women in senior roles by almost a third over a period of five years.
5. Profit-Generating Roles
Finally, part of the reason why so few women are in senior roles may be the “drift” of women into project-management roles, and careers where it is harder to climb to senior positions, such as marketing and legal affairs. To counteract this “drift,” Global consulting firm Accenture PLC began training women to take on more in-demand roles as technical architects, and the firm developed a four-year sponsorship program that helps to launch women into senior roles.
Overall, studies indicate that proactive companies who actively seek to place more women in senior roles will close the gender disparity gap and have the added benefit of increasing their profitability.
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