Your company and the United Nations likely share the same top people problem. And, what's that problem?  Gender imbalance, especially in senior leadership positions. The U.N. General Assembly found that internally women are underrepresented in top U.N. leadership positions.

This is not surprising given that the Women in the Workforce Study conducted by McKinsey & Company and  LeanIN.org in 2015, concluded what you probably already know-- that women experience greater barriers to advancement than their male peers.

Across all levels of organizations, the representation of women is 15 percent lower than men. Women are still underrepresented at every corporate level with the biggest gap in senior leadership.

The U.N. is now deliberately and systematically working towards closing the gender gap at all levels of their organization and your company should too. 

And here is why. First, you might ask: Is this just warm- fuzzy- feel- good- stuff? No. Aside from the fact that most people believe it to be a human right for women to have access to the same opportunities as men, gender equality also makes fantastic business sense and here are the top 5 reasons why:

Top 5 Reasons Why Gender Equality Is Good For Business and the Economy

  1. Companies with women on their corporate boards perform better. Currently, only about nineteen percent of board seats are held by women at U.S. corporations listed on the S&P 500 index. 
  2. Research indicates that diversity, including gender diversity promotes innovation and drives market growth.
  3. Gender diversity also leads to greater competitiveness, specifically in technology. 
  4. Research shows that employees on diverse and inclusive teams put in more effort, stay at their companies longer, and show more engagement and commitment to their companies. 
  5. Society relies on women workers. For the Global Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States to rise, it relies on skilled female workers. For organizations to be sustainable and for the economy to flourish, skilled women are necessary not only in the U.S. workforce, but in the global workforce.

Since a major pillar of the U.N. is to promote and safeguard human rights, it is no wonder that the U.N. has recognized their own internal need to commit to better representation of women across all levels of their organization. 

6 Strategies to Increase Gender Parity 

According to the U.N. Women's Equal Representation of Women Through the Lens of Leadership and Organizational Culture Report this is how the U.N. is working to accomplish greater gender parity at the U.N. and what your company can do too:

  • Gender equality distributed across all staff levels. 
  • Formal leadership training that is transformative in nature and involves gender-specific modules. 
  • Raise awareness of unconscious gender bias, which is often unintentional and deeply embedded in an individual's assumptions and in organizational culture. If unconscious gender bias is not addressed, then the 5 other noted strategies are useless.  
  • Formal mentorship and coaching programs to support the advancement of women.
  • Senior leadership must act as the champions for the changes needed to embed the positive values of gender equality into the organizational culture. 
  • Accountability: track and evaluate how leaders promote inclusivity. 

Workplace Flexibility

I would add one more strategy and that is workplace flexibility. This should not be based on circumstance, such as being a mother. When possible, flexibility should be given to all employees.

And here is why. When flexibility is given to a woman based on the fact that she is a working mother, this can lead to stigma. Her colleagues might think, "Oh, she doesn't work as hard as us because she leaves at 3:00PM to pick up her kids everyday" even though she might be working late into the night at home.

So, a working mom in an organization might be stigmatized as not hard-working and this perception might stifle her chances for advancement. 

Just because a woman doesn't have children, a male employee is the breadwinner, or an employee is single and does not have children, does not mean they too should not be afforded workplace flexibility when possible. 

 

Published on: Mar 10, 2016