DIVERSITY IS MUCH BEYOND NUMBERS
The idea of gender equality and diversity is to make certain that all employees have access to the same opportunities and the same, fair treatment.
“The other day, I interviewed a young, driven HR manager from a fairly well known FMCG. In our discussion on gender diversity, she proudly showcased change in ratios of women recruited, the biggest chunk of which came from campuses. These were an outcome of a pure ‘number focus’ ... She may well have been from the sales team, with the month-end being the campus day zero!”
Diversity stands for equal opportunity and respect to everyone in the organisation, irrespective of their gender, religious orientation, sexual orientation, level in the organisation etc. What a lot of organisations drive is a ‘target’ on number of women recruited.
In my conversations with female employees across industries, what stands out is their wish to work in an environment where they recieve fair treatment, equal opportunities to lean, contribute and grow while being able to manage their personal goals. But, the reality is far from perfect. Organisations today are progressive and are not deliberately non-inclusive but with a closer scrutiny, one might start to spot hidden barriers, bias and mindsets that inadvertently do so.
Further, the treatment of this issue has been symptomatic without addressing the core issues.
The challenge here really is to understand the root causes for the lack of gender diversity in the organisation. These root causes will give insights as to what needs to be done systemically, thereby building a culture that encourages, welcomes and sustains diversity.
For example, one of the root causes is the inability to recognise and deal with life stages that an employee goes through such as…
1. Employees will get married and it alters the life stage. What do organisations do to enable life transitions?
2.Couples will need to move locations to live a normal life. Why should relocation come at a cost to career, normally the female’s!
3.Young children will need to be breast fed. Why should this be forced to be a choice?
There are varying degrees of recognition of these life stages in organisations. Policies do not comprehensively address these issues or worse leave them to a manager’s discretion. The net result is an inconsistent approach that leads to retention issues and a vicious cycle of hiring to meet number target and a mindset against diversity.
Organizations need to come up with policies that help employees navigate these life stages while continuing to contribute and grow. Further to the policies is the buy in and alignment of leadership and managers across the organisation. It must not be reduced to a binary decision or a forced choice between career and personal life or left to the discretion of a manager.
This will form the bedrock of a systemic framework that will address the core-issues. Do this and the numbers will happen!