Achieving Gender Diversity in Organizations
Men and women are innately different, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, views and different approaches to problems and opportunities. By fostering gender diversity, organizations are able to harness the strengths of each gender. This is particularly evident in leadership roles. Women usually have a leadership style that encourages excellence without being too autocratic or dominant. This does not mean that women leaders shy away from dominance. Instead, their leadership style has a more collaborative approach, which in turn allows a team to feel heard and empowered. This in turn motivates the team to perform even better and provides a good, inclusive leadership that listens before making decisions.
Gender diversity in an organisational context is a term that is used to refer to a situation where both men and women are given equal importance in the workplace. This means that everyone within the organization, regardless of their gender, is treated equally and fairly and given the same opportunities in all sectors of the organization, including hiring, advancement and decision making.
For an organization to achieve gender diversity, it should be driven by inclusiveness. A person’s gender should have no influence in the company’s decision making. Instead, the company should only consider the person’s competence. In some cases in South Africa, a company’s gender diversity program/objective may be driven by the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Act. In such cases, the Employment Equity Plan should be clear with well-defined goals and objectives set around gender diversity. Any decisions made under the Employment Equity plan should be fair and objective, based on a person’s actual competence and not perceived competence.
If the organization is implementing a gender diversity program, it needs to effectively communicate this in order to encourage female participation to drive the program. The goals and objectives defined in the program should also be measured regularly. For the program to be effective, everyone in the organization, from the leaders downwards, should buy into the importance of the program by understanding its benefits and the value it adds to the organization. They must also believe that the women in the organization have been appointed on merit rather than their gender.
The gender diversity program should also be driven by empowerment. In most cases, women are usually more careful in the workplace. They avoid taking on new responsibilities unless they are absolutely sure that they have what it takes to perform in these roles. Compare this to men who are more confident in their ability to navigate the unknown and are more willing to take up new roles and learn on the job. This means that women do not compete as readily as their male counterparts and may therefore miss out on some opportunities.
An effective gender diversity program needs to educate women to compete with men on an equal playing field. This does not mean that the organization should give preference to women over men on the basis of gender. Instead, the organization should identify a pool of male and female talent both within and outside the organization. This diverse talent pool should then be trained and allowed to compete for high level opportunities as they become available within the organization.
The organization also needs to keep in mind that, while the gender diversity program is geared at developing female talent, the cohesiveness of the team is equally important, therefore both male and female talent should be developed together.
Click here to download the South African Women in Leadership in 2018 eBook, where we take a deeper look at the role of women in organizational leadership in South Africa in 2018.