As #BalanceforBetter is this year's International Women's Day theme, it is only appropriate that we make the business case for gender equality in the office.
#BalanceforBetter is a brilliant theme for International Women’s Day in 2019. We have reached a point at which people of all genders are becoming more aware that treating people based on stereotypes, as well as allowing for oppression based on historically and society-bred preconceived notions, are no longer tolerable.
Therefore, a focus on “balance” presents a logical approach. In many countries, the share of women in the workforce accounts for 40 percent or more. For five decades the feminist movement has been evolving and women have been gaining equality.
Yet for a millennial like me, 50 years seems like an excruciating amount of time to wait for change.
Advancing women at work will involve morphing what have long been persistent barriers to inclusion. Historically in the United States and Europe, white men have, and still do, hold the majority of senior leadership roles.
Take a moment to think about the reasons why this is the case - after all, our brains are fascinating in how they work. In a recent New York University study on why people trust strangers, it was found that our trust in them heavily relies on whether they resemble someone we already know. So trusting a white man to be in a leadership role makes sense based partially upon the fact that that’s what we’re used to seeing.
How do companies change the status quo? They can widen the pipeline in order to make it possible to promote more women. When you reflect upon a favorable experience you’ve had with a boss, is the first thing you remember the person’s gender? Or, is it the case that how the experience made you feel actually resonates with you more?
Regardless of gender, qualified candidates do exist. It’s up to all of us to encourage women to apply for leadership roles. The more the physical face of leadership roles changes, the quicker we can reprogram our brains into harnessing this aforementioned “trust” in strangers, therefore incorporating those more diverse experiences into how we perceive leadership.
Diversity is powerful. Organizations with a diverse labor force experience lower turnover, and as a result, develop a workplace culture that matches what many new entrants into the job market are seeking. Millennials are expanding into more entry- and mid-level roles across the labor force. As this is a generation determined to work within an organization that looks similar to the communities in which they live, it should be no surprise that nearly half of all millennials are pushing for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
In 2017, the World Economic Forum partnered with LinkedIn for its Global Gender Gap Index. Going beyond the moral case for gender equality, it is clear that gender parity also presents significant economic opportunity. Women and men are either graduating in equal numbers from universities, or there are even more women than men graduating in many countries around the world. For most of the globe's population, the higher skilled talent actually lies within women rather than men. If organizations do not ensure that women and men are being integrated in equal numbers, the end result could be a SWOT-analysis threat to growth.
Additionally, a McKinsey study found that if women contributed to GDP at the same rate as men, they could add $28 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Since McKinsey does not predict complete gender parity by that year, a more realistic, yet still progressive, pace for improving gender parity could still bring an additional $12 trillion to global growth.
Companies, and countries, who remain reluctant to include women across all roles in the labor force are missing out on productivity gains. The business case for organizations to balance gender parity equates to having an increased number of skilled applicants, more loyal employees and improved productivity and performance.
It only makes sense that today is a day to work on gender parity and a #BalancedforBetter global economy.
Editor's note: Follow today's International Women's Day conversation on social media with hashtag #InternationalWomensDay.
Photo option: Unsplash
Based in Michigan, Sarah is passionate about sustainability, storytelling and bringing to light sustainability principles that can be threaded into business strategies and communications. Formerly an editor for CSRwire and freelance writer for many organizations forwarding the principles of corporate social responsibility and circularity, she is excited to be a contributor to TriplePundit. Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn and Twitter.