And so to Part Two… In our last article we considered the economic and societal reasons as to why gender equality in your workplace is so important. We discussed some compelling statistics on the effects to the wider world and communities outside your workplace. But now let’s focus inside your workplace. Let’s take a look at the reasons why your business will benefit.
Knowing your customer is arguably the most important foundation to build a successful business on. Understanding what your customers want, and how they want it delivered, is key to maintaining sales. But business growth? That often requires growing your customer base by appealing to a more diverse group of customers. And the best way to understand what a more diverse customer base wants, is to have a more diverse ideas team. Put simply, if your company employs mainly English people who only have expertise in the English market, but you want to expand into France, you would get external French-specific insights to guide your expansion plans. Similarly with gender, if your decision-making team is dominated by Generation X caucasian males, would you honestly consider your team to be expertly suited to understanding a female Millennial or Generation Z audience?
A business with a diverse team is much better equipped to appeal to a diverse audience, and therefore better set up for growth and success. And gender-equal workplaces have been proven to deliver higher profit margins than those without. In fact, an international study in 2020 found that companies in the top quartile (top 25% of all companies) for gender diversity, were 25% more likely to have above-average profits than companies in the bottom quartile for gender diversity. The study went on to find that companies who don’t prioritise gender equality in their workplaces were 27% more likely to underperform in their industries. Considering that positive profit margins are integral to business success, it’s fair to say that workplace gender equality is something that business leaders cannot afford to neglect.
Read more about where to start here: How Companies Can Better Support Women.
The way a business is perceived contributes massively to its success, and reputation can be the difference between two competitors with an equal product range or service offering. In a global research report led by Accenture Strategy, it was found that 53% of global customers disappointed by a brand’s words or actions would publicly complain about it. And specific to the UK market, 37% of customers in the same situation would walk away from a brand, and 25% of customers would never use that brand again. So it truly is sound business sense to ensure your values as a company, reflect the values of your customer base. And, as we’ve discussed, understanding your customer starts from reflecting our diverse population within your workforce.
So what can businesses expect by having an equitably diverse workforce and a solid reputation that aligns? Diversity of opinion, and its natural byproduct: innovation. Innovation very much drives market growth, and having a workplace that channels non-linear thinking is the key to unlocking this power. A Boston Consulting Group survey of nearly 2,000 companies found that businesses with high diversity representation saw an average of 45% of their revenue come from innovation alone. That’s an advantage of 19% more than the average innovation-related revenue seen by competitors who had below-average diversity standards. They went on to conclude that companies with the highest levels of digital investment showed the strongest ties between diversity and innovation revenue. Let that sink in…
It’s predicted that by 2028, over 800,000 people of the Baby Boomer generation will be retiring every year, with that number set to rise further. As a result, people of the Millennial generation will make up the vast majority of the UK workforce. And, by 2032, the number of people turning 22 (the age at which the majority of people in the UK start full-time work) will surpass 900,000 for the first time in decades. This means the UK’s workforce will be getting younger by 2030, even though our population as a whole will be getting older.
So how does this translate to your workplace? In order to future-proof your organisation, attracting and retaining Millennial talent is key. In a recent Deloitte survey of Millennial and Generation Z values, they found that employees who are satisfied with their employers’ efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture, are more likely to want to stay with their employer for more than five years. And even during a hiring process, 46% of Millennials and Gen Z’s had previously rejected job offers on the basis of a potential employer not matching their personal ethics. It is clear that the fabric of tomorrow’s talent holds representation to high value - high enough to reconsider employment options. If you consider hiring the best talent to be a priority for your business, then ensuring an equally represented workforce must also take priority.
The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was a step in the right direction by giving all people in the UK, regardless of gender or sex, the right to receive the same pay and benefits when fulfilling the same job. And the more recent Equality Act of 2010 went a step further in making workplace discrimination illegal. But let’s not be naïve, making something illegal does not eradicate the problem. Allowing any staff to be ill-treated on the grounds of their gender is unlawful, and though steps might be taken in your organisation to make sure conscious or public ill-treatment is avoided, what is being done to combat unconscious biases and microaggressions, for example?
By now it should be clear that a gender-diverse workforce goes far beyond notions of ensuring fairness in the workplace. Gender-equal workplaces make for successful business, a stronger economy, a better society… but the bottom line is that gender equality in the workplace is, by definition, a basic human right.
Research has proven that companies who recognise the lasting value of investing in the women who work for them, are often better-run companies, regardless of industry. But aside from profit statistics, an equitable workplace should be the bare minimum for a civilised and democratic society. If you’ve taken a look at the current gender split within your own organisation and found it’s less than equal, it’s high time to reconsider your hiring and promotional practices.
Read our post on Why Your Business Needs To Adopt An Inclusive Recruitment Policy to get started on your journey.
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