While changing organisational culture is an immense undertaking and takes significant time and commitment, incremental change can be achieved by adapting particular HR processes and policies to ensure a level playing field for both women and men. The project looked specifically at the human resource management processes that impact on the progression of women’s careers and, subsequently, on gender balance in key decision-making roles in organisations. Research to inform the best practice model and toolkit was conducted on organisational processes and employees’ experiences of recruitment and selection, performance management and succession planning practices in three large multinational organisations, one large private organisation, one semi-state employer and three higher education institutions in the UK and Ireland.
Speaking at the conference to launch the toolkit and training programme, Margot Slattery, Managing Director, Sodexo Ireland said that they found that in departments where they had greater gender balance they were also 23% more likely to show an increase in gross profit over the past three years while also scoring higher on employee engagement. They have also implemented measures to ensure they avoid gender bias by piloting an anonymous CV process within recruitment and selection.
Suzanne Ward, ESB talked about the initiatives they have engaged in to address a particular pinch point in female careers are maternity leave. They identified the challenges, biases and blockers – perceived or real – facing females over the 4 maternity transitions stages – pre maternity leave, during maternity leave, return to work and 1-5 years post return. This led to the development of firstly a Maternity Positive programme and now a Managing Successful Parenting Transitions programme. ESB has found this programme one of the key enablers to “shifting the dial” to increase gender diversity at leadership and senior management levels.
The focus in this project was on practices rather than policy because it is at the implementation stage that individual attitudes on gender have an impact. The project’s particular focus on HR-related practices aims to encourage private and public sector employers to improve gender balance in key decision-making positions and encourage business schools across Europe to promote gender diversity in leadership positions through the training programme for undergraduate, postgraduate and post-experience students on ‘Why gender balance on key decision-making committees makes good business sense’.
We know that a greater representation of women in decision-making positions facilitates progress towards more gender balance in organisations. Organisations need to harness the power of gender-balanced leadership as a means to understand the needs of their customers, tackle complex business challenges and turn insights into strategic advantages to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Failure to address this imbalance leaves organisations out of touch with the way the world is changing. Employers can access the best practice guide at: http://www.gemprogress.com/images/BPG.pdf