The benefit of empowering women in the workplace can be impactful now and in the future


The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the professional and personal lives of just about everyone, but early evidence and reports highlight how it has impacted women more proportionally.

Women are increasingly leading the way in India, be it in sports, politics, arts, corporate, or social sectors. The benefit of empowering women in the workplace can be impactful now and in the future. Research shows that company profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher when women are well-represented at the top levels of the organization. According to a report by the consultancy firm Grant Thornton, in India, 98% of companies have a woman as a part of senior management while the global average is 90%. Yet many women are often subject to gender discrimination, workplace bias, limited mentoring, deep routed sexism, and lopsided HR policies in the workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the professional and personal lives of just about everyone, but early evidence and reports highlight how it has impacted women more proportionally. According to the 10th edition of the LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index, nearly 47 percent of working Indian women are experiencing more stress or anxiety due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For men, this number stood at 38 percent, pointing towards a disproportionate impact on women in these challenging times. Such economic slowdowns not only unduly affect women but also prompt gender equality issues to slip down in priority on the corporate agendas. A McKinsey report pointed out that women’s jobs have been 1.8 times more vulnerable during the pandemic than men’s jobs. While reports say that the COVID-19 crisis has shown us the remarkable leadership capabilities of female leaders around the world, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure greater gender equity and pay parity among male and female employees across our country.

At an organizational level, here are a few ways in which one can empower and encourage women at their workplace:

Promote gender diversity
Organizations need to understand the impact of gender diversity and how teams with a ‘balanced’ gender mix perform significantly better on critical parameters like revenue and growth. By having a healthy gender ratio, an organization can attract a broader pool of talent, have multiple perspectives, and encourage greater collaboration. Hence, organizations need to put additional efforts into recruiting female workforce members across levels. With hybrid work models and an increase in demand for digital talent, many sectors are further looking at enhancing women’s participation in the workforce. GoDaddy’s 2020 global diversity data shows that the total population of women at the company is 30%, as compared to globally, where women make up 19% of technical positions and 36% of non-technical roles. Other IT companies like Wipro, HCL Technologies, and Infosys are planning to hire more women candidates this year through campus placements. All these companies are focusing on creating opportunities for women and promoting gender diversity in the workforce. If organizations are not considering full-time women employees, they can consider hiring a diverse group of contract or gig workers to benefit from having women join in the collaboration. A recent study states that alternative work arrangements in the gig economy have the potential to absorb more women and increase their participation in the workforce with some amount of reskilling.

Remove pay disparity
The pay gap persistently exists despite the efforts made to bridge it over the past few decades. It’s estimated that women earn 20 percent less than men for the same work. Closing the gender wage gap is essential to help women achieve economic security. Organizations can combat this disparity by promoting transparency and allotting salaries based on market standards. And they also need to continually work towards minimizing unconscious bias across sectors, specifically in the areas of recruitment, performance reviews, and career advancement. While a Glassdoor study says gender pay parity won’t disappear entirely until 2070, many organizations have already taken steps to eliminate pay parity from the grassroots level.  One such example is GoDaddy, with it’s 2020 Diversity Report showing that in the technical ranks, women make one cent more on the dollar than men, and in non-technical roles, women make $1.00 for every $1.00 a man makes.

Prevention and elimination of violence and harassment
Despite its massive scale, violence and sexual harassment at the workplace remains under-reported because of fear of disbelief, blame, or social and professional retaliation. Apart from the psychological and emotional damage that harassment causes to victims, businesses suffer too. Many studies have found that experiencing harassment in the workplace often forces women to leave their jobs, taking away their ideas, connections, and potential growth along with them. It is almost like a brain drain for these organizations. Even as several companies have been on a work-from-home model since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, sexual harassment cases still persist. According to the database of the National Commission of Women, 125 complaints of sexual harassment of women were received in 2021 so far. Organizations should demonstrate a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and must make clear that punishment for harassment applies equally across the organization, regardless of the designation of the employee. Remedial actions, in such cases, should also be known to all, which can aid in setting a benchmark for the organization. Strict anti-harassment policies and training on preventing sexual harassment should be made mandatory for all employees. Many organizations also implement channels through which employees can anonymously report cases of sexual harassment.

Special mentorship programs and policies
Establishing a gender-diverse workforce is imperative for organizations to perform at their highest stature, and mentoring can be the ideal approach to enable upskilling, building networks, increasing employee engagement and retention. Organizations should provide special mentorship programs for women as it enables them to set clear career ambitions, gain confidence and learn from each other personally as well as professionally. Many organizations have institutionalized training programs to help women who have been on a break for a certain period post-maternity, sabbatical, or a career break, transition back to work. Apart from special mentoring programs for women, organizations must also embrace the many lessons of flexible work learned through the pandemic. Policies like work from home, maternity leaves, child-care, and flexible working hours can all help to encourage women to enter the workforce and perform at a high level.

To help achieve a balanced and diverse culture at any organization, men should act as allies and get better at collaborating with women to help shrink gender disparities and engage as mentors, sponsors, and advocates for the fair treatment of women. Women provide a unique and impactful perspective that contributes to a more collaborative futuristic organization. Working women are here to stay, and organizations that chose to embrace these concepts to encourage women to join and excel in their organizations can be setting themselves up for greater success in the future.

Source: Nikhil Arora/People Matters

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Hybrid Workplace & The Biggest Dilemmas We Are Facing

What will be the biggest challenges when it comes to hybrid work, and what should companies prioritize to build an efficient hybrid workplace model? Talent leaders share their biggest dilemmas in setting up an ‘efficient anywhere’ work model before Anushree Sharma from People Matters.

Hybrid working has taken the traditional workplace by storm and is continuing to shake up the traditional office. How do we communicate effectively? How can we enable better collaboration among peers? What’s the best technology to promote higher productivity, accountability, and efficiency– all this while being apart. How do we make working in different places work for every employee in the organization?

The talk of the future of work is pretty chaotic, and everyone is looking out for best practices, and experts’ advice to plan for the future. While hybrid work seems to be, as per reports, the future of work, this new way of working has its shortcomings. In order to make it work, organizations are looking at possible solutions to ensure they can move forward successfully.

How do we ensure “trust and belief” in the way we deal with each other?

Teams can’t function well when coworkers don’t trust one another. Building and maintaining trust in the traditional, physical workplace is difficult enough, but the process is even tougher in a virtual environment, where people often have to work with people they haven’t met in person.

Employers are skeptical whether trust can be established in a virtual environment. How many employees can truly trust people they haven’t met in person? While the hard truth is that teams can’t function without trust, a lack of face-to-face interaction doesn’t automatically mean an environment of distrust. Proactive communication and more engaging conversations can ensure that trust will flourish within the virtual work model.

How to find the right balance of flexibility in hybrid working?

Working remote vs in an office. Combining these two opposing dynamics will reinvent our traditional work methods. Hybrid work is not just about an employee’s physical location, but also about their way of work, their habits, and overall efficiency. Finding the right balance between these two extremes and namely the corresponding level of hybrid work will be a decisive factor to a company’s success in the future.

A company will have to generate customized solutions for every single employee by analyzing the environment they need to do their best work and the amount of personal contact, as well as the flexibility they require.

Are organizations really open to making fundamental shifts to the way they work?

Facing strong employee resistance and turnover, Google recently backtracked from its plan to force all employees to return back to the office and allowed many to work remotely. Apple’s plan to force its staff back to the office has caused many to leave Apple and led to substantial internal opposition.

According to a study, many executives are falling victim to a number of well-known psychological biases in their push to end remote working.

How to translate the same level of ‘belongingness’ in the virtual space

In a recent global survey of employees across industries, seventy-five percent of respondents reported feeling more socially isolated since the start of the pandemic. Sixty-seven percent of employees reported increased stress, and fifty-three percent said they feel emotionally exhausted. Further, in a global study led by Cognizant, which studied their full-time employees, respondents said fostering a sense of belonging at work significantly increased their motivation, commitment, emotional and physical well-being, and overall engagement. Ultimately, these feelings of belonging led to greater innovation and increased productivity.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, it’s critical that organizations intentionally focus on nurturing a sense of belonging – feeling connected, included, valued, and welcomed.

Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021 shows that sixty-three percent of high-growth companies have already adopted an “efficient anywhere” model. We have all learned that productivity is not dependent on a common physical location and while there are plenty of available digital tools, still, as HR leaders we need to find a way to redesign connections, collaboration, and business continuity in the new normal.

How one will answer these biggest dilemmas – Trust, Flexibility, Balance, Change, and Belongingness will become key to getting hybrid work right! 

In a recent virtual roundtable, “Building an efficient work model with technology,” hosted by People Matters in collaboration with Workplace from Facebook, leaders across the industries came together to find answers to these dilemmas. One of the immediate steps to enable the hybrid work model was to focus on keeping trust, culture, and people’s experience at the center of their communication strategy.

Ram shared the story of implementing Workplace from Facebook at L&T, wherein the management was skeptical of whether getting social media to work might hamper workplace discipline. However, today after four years, he says the employees at different levels collaborate seamlessly and indulge in engaging communication both professionally and personally. The company sees tremendous growth in productivity and engagement.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has compelled many companies to adopt a work-from-anywhere model but also shown how productivity is not dependent on a common physical location. The availability of a plethora of digital tools has enabled teams to stay connected, help them collaborate, and ensure business continuity. The key lies in pivoting the future of work dialogue from working at a fixed physical location to one that allows employees to do their best work from wherever they are.

Source: People Matters

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