It’s a known fact that greater gender equity in the workplace creates positives for organisational performance and competitiveness. However, there are a number of barriers to overcome before making organisations embrace gender equity.
How do we see women in the workforce? Kelly’s global research titled Making the Business Case for Gender Equity busts some myths about working women, their ability to lead, and to contribute critical skills at a high level.
1 Women will always put their families before work and organisations need total commitment. It is true that many women with families experience what is termed a double burden – they must give 100% at home as well as at the workplace. Yes, many women will take some time out from their career to have children, yet this is a relatively short time-frame when an entire career is considered.
2 Work-life balance is no longer just a women’s issue. Men too are starting to consider excessive time away from their families as a major issue. Research shows that men are more likely to leave an organisation due to inflexible working arrangements than women (45% of men compared with 39% of women).
3 There are important gender differences in the workplace, some of which make women diligent and loyal employees. Kelly’s global research found that women are more likely to be interested in gaining skills than being promoted. As many as 59% of men versus 65% of women are seeking new skills. Women in the APAC region appear to be more aspirational in their careers with 42% seeking immediate promotion compared to 31% in Europe and 36% in the US.
4 Women are under-represented at a senior level because they are less capable leaders. Research shows that the concept of merit is subjective and prone to biases. When employees are asked about their experiences of being led their responses show that women tend to show stronger leadership skills on virtually all fronts.
5 Women are less interested in leading than men. Eighty per cent of women in Asia said that they aspired to senior leadership positions. An executive board survey showed that 45% of mid-level women in Asia felt that rising to a senior management position was very important to them, compared to less than 40% of men. McKinsey research also shows that when women are promoted out of junior roles they become more interested in progressing further up the line of command.
6 Women don’t speak up enough to get leadership roles. Perceptions of ambitious women being bossy, difficult and aggressive are cultural barriers. On an average, men tend to rate the performances of other men more highly than those of women. This is compounded by the fact that women tend to underestimate and under-promote themselves.
7 It doesn’t matter if we don’t promote many women. GDP, global competitiveness and other financial indicators of prosperity strongly correlate with women’s success in the workforce and equality.