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Towards increased gender diversity and women-friendly workplaces

In the current times, as women stride onwards and forward making their mark across diverse fields ranging from science to sports to technology, space, entertainment and more, it is very important to create awareness about their role, involvement and inspiring success stories.

Women are flexible, highly tolerant, productive, goal-oriented, self-confident and enthusiastic and they also pay great importance to communication—these qualities are of great value, especially in the corporate world and even outside of it. Surely, they should not go unnoticed and must be celebrated. While we still have a very long way to go before achieving gender equality, we must take note of the fact that the numbers of women at workplaces are increasing by the day. Supporting them by offering them flexibility and conducive work experiences will only enhance their efficiency and productivity.

A study released by Korn Ferry and the Conference Board stated that 62% of respondents believe that women in leadership positions have increased over the last five years. However, 66% still believe that there is an inadequate representation of women in leadership positions in their organisations. This is something that should be addressed, as it brings immense advantages. A Catalyst study found that companies with the most women directors outperform those with the least on return on invested capital by 26%.

Can the organisations of today progress further in becoming women-friendly? The answer would be yes. Here are a few steps companies can take to make women employees feel more welcome at work.

Workforce-diversity

While many industries are open to hiring women, the ratio of women employees to male counterparts is not very encouraging as women are often relatively lesser in number. Therefore, setting a target gender ratio will pave the way for companies across sectors to get to a gender-balanced employee count. This will lead to workforce-diversity which is an essential key to improving productivity and decision making.

Equality always

While recruiting a balanced proportion of male and female employees is important, it should not be the core aim. Treating employees with equality is what counts and should be an objective every organisation follows. With women in the workforce, it is essential to recognise their roles, provide equal appraisals and not to forget to ensure their health concerns are well taken care of.

Ensuring safety

Safety of women employees should be made a high priority. Women who work late or work in night shifts entrust the company with their safety and wellbeing. The company must shoulder the responsibility and adopt appropriate measures like adequate security staff, surveillance and security within and around the office premises.

Women-oriented policies

Firms must introduce or modify certain policies to meet the requirements of women. With the instances of harassment in the workplace increasing, companies are forming committees that have zero tolerance towards any such misdemeanour. Female employees should be assured that any kind of misbehaviour by a colleague would be strictly dealt with.

Other policies like increased maternity leave for new and adoptive mothers also help women to better adapt to the dual responsibilities they acquire after motherhood.

The way forward

In order to be a women-friendly firm, it is important to display affinity to female colleagues. Perhaps the first step could be to not make them feel guilty about taking leaves because of duties outside of work— but rather encourage them to balance work and home. Female employees are known to experience strong gender bias even in terms of assigning critical projects, budgets and subsequently promotions and pay hikes.

While it is great that today we do have examples of women shattering the glass ceilings in so many fields, our ultimate goal should to ensure that there is no glass ceiling in the first place to differentiate women who display equivalent ambition, zeal and productivity as their male colleagues. If employees perform well, they should be subject to rewards and appraisals without having to deal with gender-based discrimination.

It is also important for organisations to see to it that a woman’s choice to be a mother does not hamper her prospects at the workplace or lead to her contribution being de-valued. So policies need to ensure maternity leave to help women balance their home, child and deliverables at the workplace.

Organisations must train young women employees and groom them into becoming better managers and future leaders. They should be included in decision-making and their opinions should be considered valuable like their male counterparts.

Turning the crisis into an opportunity

In the current times, as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, a large chunk of the workforce is operating remotely due to lockdowns.

Women, however have a much tougher job at hand. Along with fulfilling their office work responsibilities, they’re simultaneously taking care of children and other family members who also have no option but to stay home. It’s a double-shift they’re selflessly taking in their stride. And it’s up to organisations to appreciate their hard work and do everything possible to reduce the stress, offer feasible solutions and help them work to their potential.

With businesses gradually adapting to the new normal business environment, perspectives are shifting, processes and operations are being re-engineered, transformation has become the need of the hour to succeed.

And while we undergo this process of transition at various different levels, there is no better time than right now to unlearn the gender bias at our workplaces and make progressive changes to our gender outlook and policies.

Like Winston Churchill aptly said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”