Four ways to introduce greater gender diversity

CEDA’s 2013 Women in Leadership: Understanding the gender gap report relays the results of a survey of the business community that found 93.2% of respondents believe there are barriers to women’s equality at work and 51% (of mostly female respondents) had experienced discrimination on the basis of gender. What a surprise????

That’s the problem but what of the solution? CEDA’s recommendations include tackling unconscious bias, more career development and promotion opportunities and mentoring for women, and “mainstreaming” workplace flexibility so it is not linked only to women with family responsibilities. A recent New York Times article we spotted about the “stigma” of accessing workplace flexibility explains why mainstreaming flexibility is so important.

The report also offers solutions through a number of essays by academics and gender diversity commentators including former Financial Review journalist Catherine Fox who looks at many of the myths holding women back including that there are not enough “qualified” women out there. We know there are.

The CEDA report executes the case for action but with an election looming and so much caution in the employment market right now, I can see that gender diversity is being moved to the back burner in many organisations. In times of economic uncertainty it is so easy for all the hard work and effort to recruit and promote women to be undone.

I’ve seen a number of models used when tackling the targeted recruitment (or retention) of women – including internal promotions.

1. Overt and Symbolic

2. Mandated (“because I said so”, if you don’t like it, clear off)

3. Covert (by stealth – no one complained when there were only men on the shortlist, will they notice now its just women?..)

4. Half hearted and apologetic…

From my experience, its only 1-3 that works.