Today is the third blog of the Women @ Work series. We spoke about how Pakistan has a long way to go in driving gender diversity, what women are looking for and how Pakistani companies are scoring against these expectations. Today, it is all about how organizations can create a Female Friendly Workplace, a workplace that genuinely believes in the value of a more gender diverse workforce and is committed towards creating it. Our research, backed by findings from all over the world, has provided us with a clear 5 step recipe:
Step 1: Visible and Genuine Executive Commitment
The first step is for the organization’s leadership team to be convinced that having a more gender-balanced organization is simply smart business. It is not about being politically correct, or morally doing the right thing. It gives better returns.
In doing so the executive team has to be able to focus on the long-term benefits and not be swayed by the ‘naysayers’ that focus on short term issues such as maternity leaves and all kind of other gender related performance biases. The stronger position it takes on this the more successful any gender diversity initiative will have.
The executive team has to build a business case for gender diversity, set themselves an audacious goal (like doubling the number of women in 3 years at management level), come up with a solid actionable plan with key performance indicators and then go public. The last element is important as public commitment increases personal commitment levels, as well as it creates a platform for change in the organization.
Step 2: Setting the Foundation
As soon as the executive team has made a public and genuine commitment to enhance the participation of women in their organization, the company has to set its foundations. This includes:
- Creating policies on matters such as equal opportunities, reward and sexual harassment to solidify their commitment
- Adjusting HR processes on hiring, development, promotions and succession planning to ensure at a minimum that gender bias is reduced and possibly that women candidates are at least included in people decisions
- Creating a safe and female friend work place by providing facilities that ensure the safety of female staff at all times and enables them to perform to their ability
- Helping male colleagues and specifically male line managers to become aware of specific gender related barriers and how to create a supportive and female friendly work place
Step 3: Enabling Female Employees to Combine Work and Home
Pakistani society has not progressed to a point where it is acceptable for a woman not to be a home maker. As a result she always has to be able to manage the pressures that come with managing both home and work. For companies in Pakistan to be successful in their gender diversity initiatives it is important for them to extend their support in enabling women to do so and not make it a reason for women to leave after they have gotten married or have had children.
Companies should as much as possible create flexible work arrangements and allow, if required, employees to work from home allowing them to fulfill personal commitments. This flexibility should not only be offered to women but to all employees alike as to not create a visible distinction between gender in the organisation.
This approach also applies for the matter of maternity. The more a company is able to support women during their maternity leave and upon their return to the workplace the more women will stay. Providing child care facilities will not only support women in focusing on their work and therefore be more productive upon their return it will also create a tremendous loyalty from working mothers and be a ‘attraction magnet for other working mums.
Step 4: Maximizing potential
With the foundations and enablers in place it is time to focus on providing high performing women with specific support and opportunities. This can be done in the form of:
- Assigning executive mentors and coaches
- Nominating women for specific training and development opportunities
- Creating networking occasions (with other women) in the company
- Omen talent review sessions in which the senior leadership team reviews and agrees development interventions for high performing female talent
Step 5: Influencing the Outside World
The final step is to come out in the open and use the traction and success that you have generated inside the company to influence other companies and society. This can be done through:
- Sponsoring of gender diversity initiatives and events,
- Specific female candidate outreach and sponsoring programs,
- Taking ownership of specific female friendly initiatives such as:
o– Supporting women to came back to work after a long maternity break
o– Launching part-time work or job-sharing initiatives
By publically supporting gender diversity initiatives you will not only position yourselves as the employer of choice for female talent and positively influence your company’s reputation, but you will also be able to influence society and more specifically spouses whose support is essential for any talented woman to go out there and join the workforce.
However, be aware, you can only do this if your house is in order and females in your company are indeed recognizing you as a female friendly workplace. Based on our survey of 14 leading companies in Pakistan only two companies would be able to do that at the moment. Others still have some way to go in creating the environment where women unequivocally will recommend their company as a female friendly workplace.
Next week is the last blog in our Women @ Work series. In this we will focus on how women can drive their own success in managing their career. Keep on sharing your views and comments!
– Paul Keijzer