Dr Bharati Singh, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
It’s that time of the year when it’s my turn again to write a blog for the Staffordshire Business School. So, I have pondered and contemplated and deliberated on what to write and have decided to continue with the theme from last year on sharing some thoughts from working in the corporate world.
For this blog, I will dwell on gender diversity. Albeit, a narrow range consisting of pay gap and equal opportunities. While I have not personally experienced any gender discrimination with regards to pay and feel that I have been treated fairly in all my various jobs and roles with the various companies that I have worked with; I am aware that this is an ongoing issue and all the companies that I have previously worked for had a gender diversity forum.
Recently, I saw a video that was advertised by one of my previous employers. It showed young girls talking about their career aspirations. There was joy in their voices. However, when they were told that men in the workplace get paid more than women, the pictures captured of these girls showed confusion, anger, bewilderment.
A 2018 report by McKinsey (a consulting firm) states that companies do not walk the talk on gender diversity. While there are more women graduates than men who are negotiating their pay and promotions, while at the same time still in the same work as men, this is not translating into equal woman representation at higher levels of the corporate chain.
It is not only in the corporate world that the pay gap between the genders is high but also in the world of sports. Serena Williams, a US tennis player and winner of 23 grand slams, had spoken out on this matter more than a decade ago which finally led to Wimbledon being last on the block of grand slams to equalise the gap in 2007. However, the gap remains across other sports. Some argue that this is because women sports earn less money, but this was not the case with women’s soccer, which has led the US women’s soccer team filing a gender discrimination lawsuit.
Globally, there remains a 32% gender gap as per a 2018 report by the World Economic Forum. It states that the progress towards closing this gap is rather slow with more countries regressing rather than progressing. The countries with the highest parity are the Nordic countries. They can do so due to the explicit support of policymakers towards gender equality in all public and private aspects. Hence, for countries to remain competitive and inclusive, policymakers will require gender equality to become critical to a nation states human capital development.
A 2019 research report in HBR confirmed that higher gender diversity leads to more productivity in firms in relation to market value and revenue. However, countries which did have liberal policies towards childcare and parental assistance, such as Japan, still do not benefit due to stiffly patriarchal work cultures. Another research by Australian Government states that a more inclusive environment helps retain employees.
What is needed is a monumental shift in thinking as to why gender diversity is important. Just a few companies or a few countries cannot help the cause; the requirement is a cultural change. Where women make almost 50% of the world population, it is imperative to recognise gender diversity as a need of the hour towards enhancing organisation performance and attracting and retaining top talent.
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