Gender inequality in the workplace is a long-standing issue that remains top-of-mind for many organisations and HR leaders. Recent news has shown that progress is being made, with the number of FTSE-100 female directors rising by 50% in the last five years. However, this is offset by the fact that only 17 of FTSE-350 companies have female CEOs.
And COVID-19 hasn’t helped, with a wealth of research pointing to the fact that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, more likely to be furloughed or made redundant. Having to balance remote working, childcare and increased responsibilities at home has contributed towards 41% of women exiting or considering leaving the workforce.
So what can business leaders do to support women in the workplace?
Whilst there’s no easy fix for achieving gender parity, embedding cultural changes across the organisation is key. Here are four talent strategies to consider.
Internal mentoring and sponsorship programmes
Female employees are paired with a senior sponsor, who provides networking opportunities to help them grow their industry and organisational profile. Participants are simultaneously matched with a mentor, who works to coach and advise the individual on upskilling and career development opportunities.
Developing a mentoring and sponsorship programme provides participants with additional skills and knowledge needed to navigate their careers, building the foundations of the network and relationships they need to progress.
Assessments are increasingly being used to provide objective metrics at all levels – from large-scale graduate recruitment initiatives, to assessing senior hires for leadership roles. Adopting blind hiring practices when assessing and selecting candidates allows decisions to be made objectively, focusing solely on the specific attributes and capability required for the role. Excluding names and demographics on CVs so that they are completely anonymous when sifting, means that the assessors aren’t unconsciously influenced by an individual’s gender, age or race for example.
Putting in place a structured, consistent assessment process is also critically important and that starts with establishing clear, non-biased, assessment criteria that focuses on the specific attributes and capabilities required of the role, delivered by a fully-trained and diverse assessor pool.
Maternity and paternity coaching
Offering coaching to those planning to take extended leave ensures that employees are better prepared to return to work with confidence and a drive to succeed. Support is provided prior to, during and upon return from leave. Having access to consistent support means employees feel valued and supported, helping to smooth the transition and drive greater engagement and productivity as they integrate back into the workplace.
Investing in a such a programme demonstrates organisational commitment, contributing towards improved retention of female talent.
Developing a career mobility culture
Having a diverse workforce isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a driver of success, and must be supported from the top-down. But gender parity isn’t just about having diverse leadership teams – a culture of mobility spans the entire organisation.
Open and honest career conversations are key in encouraging career ownership– and business leaders must provide development support to managers so that they have the confidence to have these conversations, helping individuals to understand their values and drivers and align these with personal and organisational goals.
This International Women’s Day, will your organisation #ChoosetoChallenge and consider which talent strategies could drive gender parity?