If anyone’s out there thinking that the issue of gender diversity in business isn’t too much of a problem, consider the following study. A 2021 World Economic Forum report estimated it will take another 135 years to achieve equality, based on current progress, that’s more than a century.
This doesn’t just mean we have a long time to wait before people are actually judged on their ability, as opposed to their physical make-up. As we’ll discover below, a lack of gender diversity is actually hindering business innovation.
The importance of gender equality in the workplace
Gender equality in the workplace is not merely about fairness. After all, would any human being from any gender wish to be singularly defined by their physical make-up? A hiring policy that promotes gender equality is of course fair, but there is so much more at stake.
If you place talent at the top of your hiring specifications, you’ll earn a higher-skilled workforce in the process, not to mention a more diverse one. In turn, a higher-skilled workforce leads to greater business performance, better employee engagement, increased staff retention and an improved reputation. Fast-forward to the bigger picture and greater success for individual businesses means a growing economy for all to enjoy.
Remember also that tomorrow’s workforce has grown up in a diverse society, and 70% of individuals won’t even consider working in a culture where diversity is not a priority. A failure to ensure gender equality in your hiring process means dramatically reducing the pool of talent at your disposal.
Here’s more on why it’s so important to remove gender bias from the workplace.
Benefits of gender equality in development
Anyone working in the development sector knows that real success comes when a product or service is picked up by the mainstream. There are countless examples of useful software or tech out there that solve problems for specific individuals or businesses, but attracting a wider crowd is where the real profit lies.
And here’s the rub, what is the mainstream population made up of? It certainly isn’t male-dominated, in the UK alone, 51% of the population is registered as female, compared to 49% male.
If you want to develop a product of interest to all genders, then you’ll need all genders to be represented on your development team. A diverse team will harbour a diverse pool of ideas, and so have a wider scope for products that have the potential to reach a wider group of people.
A study by the Diversity Council of Australia discovered that people working in inclusive teams are:
9 times more likely to innovate.
10 times more likely to be proactive and highly effective at work.
19 times more likely to be very satisfied working within their jobs.
However, in spite of the positive impact of gender equality in work, women were found to represent just 37% of the product-related workforce, so what can be done?
How companies can make their workplaces more inclusive
Creating an inclusive and diverse workforce is unlikely to happen overnight. After all, we’ve had several thousand years of gender inequality at the very least, meaning it’s entrenched in our society in ways we may not always be aware of.
Achieving true gender diversity within a workplace is a long-term goal, and one that requires genuine focus from business leaders, shareholders and employees alike.
1.Reduce unconscious bias
We’ll assume for one moment that you as a business leader have no time for inequality. Yet even those completely in support of creating a more inclusive workplace may be holding back their enterprises because of unconscious bias. These are areas of gender inequality that are non-deliberate, but just as damaging.
Let’s use an example of a job advert. It’s common to see language used like ‘Jedi Knight required’, ‘design guru needed’, or ‘dev ninja wanted’ when it comes to firms describing their ideal candidate. However, although there’s no intent, such terms can be off-putting for female candidates.
Removing unconscious bias can be tricky. If you’ve any doubts, form an inclusive think-tank within your organisation to revise your processes and the kind of language being used. Bias removing software such as Textio.com can improve the quality of your job advertisements and ensure they speak to the widest and most diverse audience possible.
2.Create an inclusive culture
Once you’ve reduced your own unconscious bias in the workplace, focus on creating the right culture. Introduce diversity training across all business levels, and be clear about what behaviour and language are acceptable. Depending on the size of your organisation, you may wish to appoint a diversity champion or team to monitor inclusivity.
3.Focus on the products
As we’ve seen, inclusive products require an inclusive development team. When you’re putting teams together, push your people preferences to one side. Keep your focus on the precise product you have in mind, and how you’re team will positively develop the product. Appoint people to the team who have the most potential to understand the needs of the customer base you wish to attract.
As Jonathan Bass, CEO of Whom Home has stated, ‘creating a diverse company culture gives you a unique advantage in the marketplace to create products that appeal to a diverse community…if everybody in the room only likes grey and white, all your products will be reflective of a grey and white motif.’
Given that gender diversity in the workplace can boost innovation by as much as 20%, it’s essential that any business leader looking to attract the mainstream and find true success puts a focus on inclusive hiring.
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