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A recent study conducted by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.org “Women in the Workplace 2018” provides us with some valuable insights into the current state of women in the workplace. While the study primarily focuses on corporate America, the key takeaways can be applied globally. Women have not been lax in their efforts to close the gender gap to both employment and leadership. In fact, for over thirty years women have been outperforming men when it comes to obtaining their bachelor’s degrees. This achievement is not reflected in the executive and key leadership positions. 

While the reason women do not reach senior management has been attributed to attrition in the past, the study reveals this is not true. There is no significant difference in the rate at which men and women are leaving their companies. There is also little evidence that women plan to leave the corporate world more than men for family duties.
So why are women still grossly underrepresented in senior management?

McKinsey’s study reveals that it all starts at the very bottom. Despite more women earning their bachelor’s degrees, they are still less likely to be hired in entry-level positions. Moreover, the numbers dwindle further when they climb up to manager levels. Men occupy 62% of manager positions compared to only 38% for women. The statistics are worse for women of color.

If companies want real inclusion and diversity, they need to revisit and revise their talent pipeline and the way they hire and promote employees. In recent years there’s been much conversation about inclusion in the workplace, but it seems that the corporate world as a whole has been stuck at the ‘conversation’ stage, as little progress has been achieved over the years. It’s time to move forward towards action.

‘Rise and Lead Women’ works with companies who’ve shown a genuine commitment to gender diversity in the workplace. Good intentions are not enough; planning and strategy are needed for companies to fully comprehend the importance and necessity of representation and how it translates into the corporate code of conduct, best HR practices, and policies for employee engagement.

Here is some advice on how companies can begin to uphold true gender diversity within their organization:

Revisit Your Job Description

A study has shown that while men will more likely apply for a job or a position even if they’re only 60% qualified, women will not do so unless they’re qualified 100%. Your company could be losing out on a significant number of female talent before you’ve even made the first contact. Instead of listing qualifications, write job descriptions that are based on responsibilities and performance. Build job descriptions around what is expected of them and what tasks they need to fulfill for the role. This also allows companies to attract applicants who genuinely understand the job and want to pursue it.

Whether you’re outsourcing your recruitment or doing it in-house, a more diverse recruitment search needs to be in place. Recruitment platforms are now more equipped for diversity searches, allowing you to look for candidates in underrepresented groups including women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. Diversifying your recruitment search will also give you a more robust talent pipeline.

Address Unconscious Bias

Even if many women end up applying for entry-level or management roles in your company, they might be shut out of these roles because of unconscious bias by employees or recruitment officers within the company. Studies have shown that recruiters, whether they’re men or women, are more likely to hire men than women regardless of qualifications. These biases need to be recognized and addressed through training. Hiring and promotion policies should also be revisited to ensure that all candidates are evaluated fairly and do not fall victim to unconscious bias.

Provide Sponsorship for Women

We’ve heard a lot about the importance of mentorship in career success, and it is crucial. However, what women in the workplace lack more than mentorship is sponsorship. While mentors advise young career women and help with their development, it is essential for women to have sponsors who will advocate for their career growth. We need both men and women in the upper echelons of management to take notice of their highly ignored talent pool of women and use their influence and network to ensure they’re assigned to projects worthy of their skills.

Ingrain Gender Diversity in Your Company Culture

Ask yourself if your workplace is a place where women would want to work. Is it conducive to women’s career progress and leadership? Alternatively, does your company culture allow microaggressions to continue without real consequence? In order to attract female talent, companies should have a culture that places high importance on diversity. They should be places where women and minorities can feel safe and flourish. You can start by addressing daily microaggressions that are common in most workplaces – small, perhaps unintentional comments or behavior that perpetuate discrimination against women and minorities. What we think of as little things such as calling young women professionals ‘sweetheart’ are demeaning and patronizing. Shutting women out of certain projects since we deem them to require a male leadership style is also discriminatory. Companies should educate themselves on the value and benefit of women’s leadership styles and how they can help their company grow and progress so they can harness their female talent.

In a white paper by WILL Forum India,”Best Employers for Women in Corporate India: The Economics of Balanced Leadership” they stress how companies that “wish to attract, retain, and nurture women for advanced management positions in their companies will need to take a hard look at what women want in their organizations — rather than use minor interventions to keep women engaged in the vision of the company for business success.”

Are you ready to take action and achieve true gender diversity in the workplace?

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri

Ebere Akadiri is A Nigerian Food Entrepreneur who lives in The Hague. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.