One of the recent arguments in favour of gender equality in the corporate world is to have at least one woman on their boards, and this would result in higher profits. In a number driven work culture like ours, this has proven to be quite a conversation starter.
Why is it so important to find a positive correlation between profit and gender to promote the idea of an equal and diverse workforce?
Well, it is acceptable to use higher revenues as a reason to drive gender equal recruitment and promotions, but it should not be the only rationale used to justify ‘gender and diversity friendly’ work policies.Simply because the profitability of an organisation is a multi-causal phenomenon where factors like current market conditions, process and technological innovation, strategizing etc., also have an impact.
If a company intends to really have a gender equal workforce then the more pertinent aspects that should be delved into are: increasing skill diversity, promoting varied decision-making abilities at the top management, a higher emotionally driven work culture, and also driving socio-economic parity and so on.
Many instances in the corporations around us bear testimony to the fact that only having women at the highest office is not necessarily a contributor to gender equality, Sumali Sanyal who works at a leading banking corporation says that, “My company is supposedly a gender equal workplace with the CEO being a woman but to be honest very few women are holding the top management positions, though in the middle management the number of female employees is quite substantial.” She also feels that citing profitability as a reason could help break the glass ceiling, but that alone is not enough to promote gender equality at work.
Equal opportunity, not equality?
For many corporate women professionals, equality is about equal opportunities based on skills and not just which gender they are classified under.
“Work opportunities should be bestowed as per an individual’s capabilities and not as per what body part a person has.” – Arpita Ghosh
Vani Shetty, who has a background in both sales and human resources, feels gender equality at work does not necessarily mean hiring any one particular section. “It is about being more inclusive about the capabilities of both sides…and bringing in and respecting different perspectives.”
Research has proven time and again that diversity and gender equality at work results in happier employees (http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/1787-staff-hiring-diversity.html). So it is not surprising when Mukti Gupta shares the same point, “A balanced and gender equal environment is healthy for everyone, company and employees in general. Gender does not promise financial results of any company but a person’s ability, determination and decision-making does”. She suggests that organizations must spend resources and time in building a work culture where employees can thrive.
According to Prof. Alice Eagly, the more important question is, why women need to prove that they bring in more moolah to be hired, or to be given a place on the board?
A sociological study by Beutel and Marini, elucidates that women, more than men, endorse social values that promotes others’ welfare (Ann M. Beutel and Margaret Mooney Marini American Sociological Review Vol. 60, No. 3 Jun., 1995 pp. 436-448.).Their study indicated that women place more emphasis on the social values of benevolence and universalism. Thus having women as leaders makes organisations more accountable towards environmental issues and more proactive in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibilities) initiatives. Corporations are not only profit-making machines. While that function is vital, but corporations have a larger role to play in the society as contributors of social development.
Thinking out ways to drive gender equality and diversity at work is amongst the most crucial issues that we face today. Corporations need to see gender as more than just a seat to be reserved for women on the board. A better organisational culture is dependent on gender balanced and diversity sensitive workforce. Having an equal and balanced workforce at organizational level promotes balance at the societal level through factors like financial parity and skill development. This in turn promotes social empowerment and independence between genders and diverse communities.