Leadership Development

Closing the Gender Gap and the Need to Embrace Diversity


Workforce diversity is essential to the growth and long-term success of any business. Continuing our conversation on the importance of women in leadership and the overall workforce, we feel that the issue of gender diversity deserves continued attention.

Recent global gender gap report published in October 2014, revealed that the gap between men and women has started to narrow with more women in politics as well as in the work force, but there is still a significant difference that needs to be filled to ensure closing the gender gap.
The report showed an improvement in Canada’s rankings in eliminating gender disparity. In this study by the Geneva based World Economic Forum, Canada ranked 19th out of the 142 countries with an equality score of 0.746 (0.00 = Inequality, 1.00 = Equality). Canada leads in the ranking in terms of having no gap between men and women in literacy rates.

Globally, inequality remains greatest in the areas of economic equality and political participation, according to the index. The study states that the gap between men and women has begun to narrow, however it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely.

Overcoming bias
In order to contribute to the countries performance in reducing the gender gap, it is essential that leading organizations start identifying and addressing the issue of gender diversity. Awareness is the first step towards reducing the gap. Rightly so, organizations – large and small have been making efforts to create awareness amongst their employees and stakeholders. But, according to a recent NY times article by Adam Grant & Sheryl Sandberg on discrimination at work, awareness alone isn’t enough. In fact, awareness could lead to bias and discrimination. The research suggests that if we’re not careful, making people aware of bias can backfire, leading them to discriminate more rather than less.

Based on the research, they said that the solution isn’t to stop pointing out stereotypes. Instead, we need to communicate that these biases are undesirable and unacceptable.

To motivate women at work, we need to be explicit about our disapproval of the leadership imbalance as well as our support for female leaders.When more women lead, performance improves. Start-ups led by women are more likely to succeed; innovative firms with more women in top management are more profitable; and companies with more gender diversity have more revenue, customers, market share and profits. A comprehensive analysis of 95 studies on gender differences showed that when it comes to leadership skills, although men are more confident, women are more competent.To break down the barriers that hold women back, it’s not enough to spread awareness. If we don’t reinforce that people need — and want — to overcome their biases, we end up silently condoning the status quo. – NY Times, Women at work.

Reviewing Talent Strategy
Organizations are aware and have improved their talent strategy to ensure female participation in the workforce and equality in pay. These initiatives are mainly driven by corporate governance requirements and the identified benefits such as higher retention rates and improved employee engagement. However, despite these initiatives; women still continue to lag behind men when it comes to participation and earnings in the workforce – especially senior roles.
It is crucial for organizations to understand why these gaps still exist. Identifying, understanding and taking steps to fill these gaps will make space for a more diverse workplace and talent pool.

Here are some ways organizations can work towards addressing the gender gap issue:

  • Besides raising awareness, fuel discussion and push for more conversations and communication around any unconscious bias as well as educating employees on the detrimental effects of any gender stereotypes
  • Reviewing the recruitment process and selection criteria, as well as the performance and promotion procedures to ensure any gender biases are neutralized
  • Regular pay audits to identify and address any gender related pay gaps
  • Mentoring, coaching and sponsorship opportunities can help women build confidence and develop their careers
  • Reviewing work place culture to break down stereotypical gender role barriers – e.g.: encouraging male employees to use their paternal leave privileges. Make flexibility and work-life balance a part of the wider company culture.

The World Economic Forum opines that since women account for one-half of a country’s potential talent base, a nation’s competitiveness in the long term hinges on how they are educated and utilized. All large and small organizations, the economic contributors, benefit from taking the onus to ensure that gender equality in the work place is monitored and addressed continuously to ensure that the gap gets filled sooner than what is estimated.

You can access the full report here – The Global Gender Gap Report 2014

Felix Global has pioneered customized Sponsorship program creation and delivery for women in some of the largest and most successful organizations in Canada. Our programs help high potential women to achieve career advancement and accelerate their career aspirations while empowering the organizations to retain their talent and ensure succession.

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