Is Gender Diversity at the Leadership level a will issue or a skill issue?

Written on Nov 18, 2019

Whose need is it any way to have Women in leadership? Is Gender Diversity a women empowerment issue? As long as we get answers that say it is the need of the woman and we are trying to empower her through gender diversity policies, you can be pretty sure that it is all farcical. 

One of the major reasons why Gender Diversity efforts in organizations fail to show the desired results is that the right understanding of the need for diversity is missing. We are not trying to do social justice here by creating gender-diverse organizations. We are trying to maximize human potential as an organized group. Often what ‘diversity’ means to the organization today might is completely different from what it will be tomorrow. Diversity also takes a backseat when discussions on billable resources come to the table. There is a strong case for diversity, backed by several studies, that prove that vibrant gender-diverse organizations are far more successful than organizations that aren’t. Monochromatic narratives of old school management will soon fall through as we cannot for long ignore the possibilities that the vibrant spectrum of diversity offers.   

But what about skills? What about the personal life challenges of women? What about the lack of will in the women to grow up the ladder? This language of old school management has kept us lagging behind in taking the diversity efforts forward. If organizations have a better understanding of the need for diversity these ‘whatabouteries’ would tumble out just as excuses. An organization that has internalized the need for diversity will have no time for such excuses. 

When we say internalized, we mean seamlessly integrating diversity goals with the organization’s culture. Diversity then becomes the way of life of the organization rather than an external plug-in. Diversity is then not a mind-numbing extra effort on the organization, but a rather free-flowing organic process and a natural course that the organization will take. The need for diversity then becomes a need of the organization and its people, which will naturally fuel the will to bring about diversity. The benefits of gender diversity then start to show. The ideal goal should be, like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, said, “In future, there will be no women leaders. There will just be leaders.” 

At Han Digital, we work with organizations to support their journey towards gender diversity and inclusion. The road to diversity in India is definitely a long one. The current scenario is that just less than 8% (as per HAN Digital proprietary research) of the senior leadership (C-suite hardcore technology leaders baring business leaders and support function leaders) in the Indian Information Technology (IT) Industry is women. The same is the case with the Business Process Management (BPM) industry. It requires a tremendous amount of will power to upturn this scenario. 

 

From our experience, we observe that organizations with a strong will for diversity:

  • Set diversity goals and make themselves accountable to achieve them 
  • Are vocal about their diversity goals 
  • Have smart recruitment processes that avoid biases and look beyond traditional talent pools for hiring
  • Pay equally 
  • Offer support systems like mentorship and upskilling programs. This is not just a good retention strategy; they also help women advance in their career 
  • Ensure fair representation across the organization levels 
  • Look beyond gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles
  • Work on integrating diversity into the culture of the organization 
  • Eliminate the barriers in the growth path of its women  
  • Involve every employee in its diversity efforts 
  • Involve women, in particular. (In many organizations the decisions about diversity are taken by men!)

One of the pitfalls to avoid here is that gender diversity can often get limited to increasing the number of women in the organization. Organizations limit their focus their hiring process without giving the big picture much though. Having women in more numbers is not the aim as much as a fair representation is. Some organizations get swamped in talent acquisition and up chasing the numbers so much that resentment towards diversity starts brewing. There couldn’t be anything as counterproductive as this! That’s why we need the leadership to constantly look at the organization’s diversity efforts with matured discernment and align them with why it wants diversity in the first place.