Why we urgently need to build gender-diverse organisations
Gender-diversity is a term we hear and read almost everywhere nowadays, but hardly ever see put to action. The blanket term, though used to encompass all genders, ends up stuck in the male-female dichotomy, or the gender binary. Even so, the term is used more frequently than it is seen being implemented, across industries and organisations.
Harassment at workplaces is at its highest right now, women are increasingly vulnerable to gender-related crimes and discrimination, and gender-based violence is at its peak. Now, more than ever, is the time to encourage gender-diverse work cultures.
Women are practically in every field and every industry, but face challenges that go beyond their work, owing to their gender. The ever-present glass-ceiling is a barrier that is often overlooked, but almost always affects performance, and by extension, the performance review of women.
Personally, I have been lucky to have a very supportive and empowering male co-founder. However, I am aware that the glass ceiling looms over a lot of women, even in leadership positions in the industry.
Though I have tried to build a gender-diverse organisation, and strictly evaluate people only based on their performance, I too have experienced discrimination because of my gender.
I clearly remember this one instance when I was leading a series of fund-raising in my organisation, and though I had been a major part of the presentations, research and even the pitches, most of the investors would address their important questions to my co-founder, who was male.
Tables turned, there are also very few women who are investors, and only men whom I ended up pitching to. Even till date, most of the questions I get asked by the media, or other budding entrepreneurs are around how I create a ‘work-life balance’, and how I’ve managed to pull this off being a woman!
The general perception is of women holding responsibilities towards their families, and hence being less accountable at work.
This perception of women employees as a burden on the organisation will change only when our mind-sets towards women change overall. Women are just as ambitious, passionate and powerful as men, and can perform equally well, if not better, than their male counterparts.
A matter of perception
Men and their perception of their female peers also plays a very huge role in changing this thought-process. In a gender-diverse organisation, all employees are given the same opportunities, regardless of their gender. This encourages similar treatment for all, and the performance of an individual is all that matters.
Employees in such organisations do not fall prey to gender-based power dynamics, and people of all genders are seen as equals. This kind of an egalitarian system has the power to significantly decrease the levels of gender-based violence, as there is absolutely no reason why a person belonging to a certain gender could feel more powerful than the others.
Like in my case, it is extremely important to have more men encouraging women around them to grow and succeed. On a lighter note, men are historically the reason women are in this state, it is only fair that they partake in uplifting and empowering women around them, and cleaning up this mess.
It is, therefore, the collective responsibility of both men and women to improve the situation of women at workplaces across industries and curb gender-based harassment and violence. Men need to be raised to treat women equally, and use that learning in their lives to call out harassment when they see it, and work towards an egalitarian work culture.
A defined approach
A top-down approach, wherein more women are in leadership positions in the organisation, and an inclusive, gender-diverse organisation can easily help change the power dynamics, along with reducing gender violence.
In many organisations, the men in leadership positions talk about women as charity cases – and them having hired women as a laudable achievement.
The inclusion of women needs to be seen as a basic necessity in any organisation, rather than a Corporate Social Responsibility activity.
Although in most industries it is not possible to create a blanket gender-inclusion rate (a certain percentage of non-males that are required by rule to be employed), organisations should proactively try and maintain a gender balance amongst its employees by creating a healthy ratio and creating some roles only for women.
In fact, it makes business sense to have more gender-diverse organisations. Research says that gender-diverse organisations have a higher average comparable revenue than less-diverse businesses. Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas, and market insights, which enables better problem=solving, ultimately leading to superior performance.
As emerging industries in the 21st century, where more women are joining the work-force around the globe, it is practically foolish to ignore 50% of the population. Hence, gender-diversity is the only way to grow our current ecosystem, and I foresee more gender-inclusive organisations naturally performing better than non-gender inclusive organisations in the future.
Radhika Ghai is chief business officer and co-founder at e-commerce firm ShopClues.