Dun & Bradstreet, the leading global provider of B2B data, insights and AI-driven platforms, helps organizations around the world grow and thrive. Dun & Bradstreet’s Data Cloud, which comprises of 455M+ records, fuels solutions and delivers insights that empower customers to grow revenue, increase margins, build stronger relationships, and help stay compliant – even in changing times.
Gender related biases have existed for long and are still present in different shapes and forms in our society. Going a few decades back, there used to be a time when hiring managers used be apprehensive about hiring married women or new mothers fearing that they would be unable to add value to the workplace as a result of their commitments at home. These fears stemmed out of various conscious and unconscious biases that people harbored. Times have however changed over the last couple of decades, and especially after the pandemic causing multiple paradigm shifts in organisations - right from exposing the inequalities faced by women in workplace, to creating opportunities for talent from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Moreover, the Great Resignation has resulted in companies implementing employee friendly policies to attract the best talent and position themselves as the most adaptable employer brand for millennials and GenZ. We are seeing organisations introducing various policies to retain top talent such as flexible working hours, investments in upskilling, mental health counselling, etc. This shows how companies have been striving hard to engage the new age workforce, especially women. A testimonial to this is the Mckinsey & Company report of Women in the Workplace which states that 87 percent of companies are highly committed to gender diversity in 2021 as compared to 56 percent in 2012. However, an important question to ask here is, are these policies only viewed as a tick mark activity to ensure compliance?
Diversity vs Inclusivity
Merely hiring more women at work should not be the end goal of organisations as they need to foster an environment that makes women feel involved, valued and embedded into the culture. They need to be given growth opportunities that will help them become people leaders. Unfortunately, it has been observed that the representation of women diminishes by a considerable amount as we move up the corporate ladder to senior executive roles. In fact, only 1 in 5 C-suite executives is a woman. This failure of a company to empower women in entry level jobs to grow into management positions is termed as the “broken rung”. Unlike what most HR leaders believe, broken rung is not the outcome of lack of talent or greater attrition rates amongst women, but the biases that women are subjected to in their workplace. We at Dun & Bradstreet have always maintained a healthy 1:3 female to male ratio, not just at entry level positions, but also at senior leadership levels.
Different biases and how to overcome them
While many organisations have introduced initiatives to eliminate explicit and conscious bias, it is unconscious bias that is pernicious to an organisation’s work culture. Women are often subjected to attribution bias where they are confronted with personal questions such as marital status or maternity while assessing their “capability” during hiring or promotions. Many women have reported lack of adequate acknowledgement for their efforts and accomplishments, and of workplaces being unsupportive of balancing responsibilities at work and home. Clearly, the initiatives being undertaken are lacking the empathy it needs to cultivate inclusivity in a wholesome manner, where every individual can thrive.
Contrary to the hackneyed beliefs preached in movies and books that we have grown up watching and reading, understanding what women want at a workplace is not all that difficult! What women want in 2022 from their workplace is trust, appreciation, support and flexibility; the feeling of being wanted and valued just as much as their male counterparts. To do this, organisations need to form an inclusive culture that sensitizes employees about gender issues. This can be achieved through workshops to educate employees about identifying unconscious bias within themselves, hold managers accountable for being biased and provide women with a safe platform to voice their concerns. At Dun & Bradstreet we have launched a “Doing the Right Thing” workshop for all employees. The workshop is not a compliance training but is designed to help people develop empathy and understand the various aspects of unconscious bias that can creep into our every day lives. After all, an organisation can truly be successful when ‘difference’ is valued and celebrated. Implementing HR tech such as AI solutions that hide the identity of the applicant while shortlisting profiles for hiring or promotions is also an excellent mechanism to eliminate bias at the core.
How women on leaderboard impacts the organisation
Various reports and studies have claimed that companies with greater representation of women in leadership roles have exhibited increased profitability and outperformed other companies having lesser diversity. Some of the innate traits that female leaders bring to the boardroom are empathy, open-mindedness and compassion. They are known to be great communicators and excellent multi taskers. Needless to say, diversity of thought in the boardroom brings in a fresh perspective and helps cultivate ideas that mirrors the demands of a holistic consumer base. Having more women in senior leadership roles, particularly within the C-suite, are a great exemplar to female employees who are just starting off with their careers. This helps them develop favorable perceptions about their career opportunities at an organisation.
More often than not, it is misconstrued that women are in need of extra privileges to empower them. However, what they need in fact is an ecosystem that helps them compete and progress with equal opportunities. Moreover, reward and recognition should be subject solely to talent and performance.
To wrap it up, inclusivity is a culture that can flourish only when all employees in an organisation are aligned with the ideologies and differences of a wide ranging workforce. While initiatives and policies are one way of encouraging it, the output is only constructive if employees of all gender genuinely celebrate and respect their differences. While the progress over the past few years is appreciable, it is important to register that we still have a long way to go!