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Gender Diversity in the Workplace
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Gender Diversity in the Workplace – Why It’s Important

Iceland recently became the first country to make it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same job. The legislation will help close the 5.7% pay gap between men and women in the country.

In America, research has found women earn between 17% and 20% less than men, meaning they would have to work at least an extra 44 days to have a comparable wage. In Australia, WGEA and ABS data show that the pay gap favours men working full-time over women working full-time in every industry in Australia. The national gender pay gap is currently sitting at between 15% and 20%.

As you go further up the ladder, two things are clear.

  1. The gender pay gap increases. Upper management workers earn an average of $93,000 more as a man.
  2. Gender diversity decreases.

Women make up nearly half of all employees in Australia. But the list of top 200 CEO’s, only 11 are female. Clearly, Australia has a long way to go in embracing gender diversity in the workplace. In 2015, only 31% of politicians were female. 4% of financial and insurance services CEO’s were female in 2013-2014, and there were more CEO’s named John than female CEO’s.

Of course this is something that should be changed, and many companies are making leaps and bounds in closing the gap in pay. Everyone should be afforded equal opportunities. While women’s rights movement started 100’s of years ago, examples equality in the workplace is a work in progress.

On this alone, gender diversity and pay equality are no brainers.

But here’s what’s interesting: increasing gender diversity helps business. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute found improving female diversity in the workplace could increase the global GDP by as much as 11% in an ideal system.

Increasing the ability for women to train and educate themselves to higher levels is linked to economic growth. Higher levels of educational attainment in the last 50 years have contributed to a 50% increase in economic growth in OECD countries.

Women are also more engaged workers than men, outscoring their male counterparts on 11 of 12 engagement survey responses. Gender diversity in retail companies results in an average revenue increase of 14%.

Companies with three or more women in upper management are estimated to be more effective in their organisation. A Credit Suisse study of more than 3000 companies found that companies with more women in senior management positions tend to be more successful. Their sales growth is higher, as is their cash flow returns. The bottom line is, increasing diversity is good for your bottom line.

So how can companies make progress in increasing gender diversity in their workplace?

Look at the hiring system

If you’re looking to hire more women, and every level of recruiting and interviewing is populated by middle-aged white men, a pattern may emerge. Want to hire women? Start by diversifying the recruitment process. Then by diversifying the interview process. Ask questions not just about work experience, but life experience.

Gender diversity programs

Having gender diversity programs, and having enough of them, is the first step. Having systems in place to ensure gender diversity is being considered is important.

Follow up

Gender diversity programs, even at their most efficient do nothing if not monitored. If a gender diversity program is not achieving a reasonable success rate, it should be modified or replaced. Having the programs is only the first step. Having effective programs is what begins to make change.

Check your work environment

Work environments in many ways are not as conducive to female participation. Office air conditioning is attuned to male body temperature, perpetuated by office fashion, which dictates men wear suits and women wear dresses. As such, women frequently freeze in their chairs.

Both genders benefit from flexible work environments, which encourage working from home or variable hours. This increases employee satisfaction, and allows employees to work around other commitments, family, and life in general.

Make it a priority

Gender diversity should be high priority in any company’s strategy and goals. McKinsey Global found companies who had gender equality in senior leadership were more likely to include it in the top three goals. However, only 7% of companies surveyed prioritised it that highly.

Culture change

No significant strides in gender diversity can be made without first changing the society and culture which ingrains beliefs.

While societal beliefs and expectations change slowly, thankfully, changing company culture is a swifter process. Expecting more of women, and challenging them to fill those shoes, can make a big impact. On top of structures in place enabling women to train themselves in order to succeed, the company culture should encourage it.

There should be role models at every level, and a compelling goal to create change. Individuals within the company should understand that diversity is something to be strived for. If everyone works together, it’s a change that can be achieved.

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