Gender gap needs to be dealt with at two levels, one at the organisation level and the other at the functional level.
About three decades back, as a management trainee, my batch mates and Iwere going through the induction program, which had planned visits across all the departments in the organization. Much to our surprise, it was virtually an all men set up, with no trace of a woman employee till we visited the PACKING department, where we saw an all women team working efficiently and elegantly.
On questioning, we were enlightened of the fact that women are much better than men in managing jobs of repetitive nature. Hence, instead of allocating men operators, traditionally women have been preferred for the department. However, in the recent past, special efforts were being initiated by global firms followed by the Indian firms, to bridge the gender gap.
Our head of research said that, “When executive access undertook a research to study the statistical characteristics of CEO profiles, one of the key observations was the strikingly negligible diversity representation at MD/CEO level, in many industries. The gender gap was starker as one went up higher in the organisation hierarchy”. She further added that, “Things are changing now with leaders increasingly being conscious of the need to reduce the gender gap and the mandate to fulfill a certain diversity percentage.
Gender mix is healthier in sectors like insurance, tourism, financial services, Pharmaceutical, Education and IT/ITES sectors and functionally in HR, Marketing, Legal and Communication roles and to some extent finance and accounts.
Gender gap needs to be dealt with at two levels, one at the organisation level and the other at the functional level:
Identify space for women talent: Someone would have gauged the suitability of women (at the worker level) for the packing job because the finger movements, eye hand co-ordination and working in groups are some of the skills where women score significantly over men. Leaders have to creatively dissect the various roles on their organization /function and align suitably without hampering the performance of the department/s. Six sigma, lean implementation, quality assurance, warehouse management are some of the roles on a shop floor, which require deliberation, convincing and diplomatic approach, and are physically less demanding. Other areas like customer service, purchase management, and design can also definitely be looked at.
Devise women friendly strategies: Our research findings say that diversity hiring, at the management trainee level and charting out a comprehensive development plan for them have reaped fruits for many MNC organisations. It is not only important to hire a female employee but equally important to retain her and provide her the best environment to perform.
Heightened Gender Diversity focus: Leaders can work towards appointing diversity champions, who will dedicatedly drive diversity friendly policies and recruitment practices. Flexi-options, child care facilities, security measures, stringent sexual harassment laws etc. are some popular plans adopted by many organizations today
Encourage “Ghar Vapasi”: It has been observed that a high percentage of females do not return to their jobs post maternity& other circumstances. Despite the willingness, and the urge, circumstances force them to stay back. Leaders can definitely bring back women on sabbatical &create policies to allow flexibility to women to execute their job partially or fully from home. This will help, first in RETAINING the female colleagues and secondly in helping the ones who have taken a break in their careers to return to their ‘HOME TURF”.
Develop the RIGHT attitude: Over the years, women have also been open to explore opportunities in hitherto all men arenas, but this is still an exception rather than a norm. With time, things will change and this gap will be bridged naturally. However, what will always remain of significance is the way a leader develops his own and also his team’s attitude and thoughts towards being more respectful to our women colleagues.
By Dr, Harshawardhan Bhave, Business Director and Sonika Lourembam, Head Research at Executive Access (India) Private Limited