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Boosting gender diversity: Tips from an expert panel

As we move into a new decade, there has never before been such a focus placed on gender equality within the workplace. Diversity and inclusion (D&I), for any business, leads to better productivity and sharing of ideas. Yet, there is still some way to go in terms of gender equality. To examine this further, we spoke to leading and influential professionals who are driving the D&I agenda for their views on the subject to see what has changed for women in the workplace over the last ten years.

 

Rob Mukherjee, Director of Transformation at EveryCloud UK, believes very little has changed. He said: “If I look at the difference in 2020 versus 2010, I think it’s almost imperceptible in terms of in the workplace.” He added: “What has increased significantly, is the profile and PR around the need to campaign and collaborate for greater gender balance.” Of course, there are some great movements raising awareness of the importance of gender equality, e.g. Northern Power Women, and such groups have been key in placing pressure on businesses to focus on D&I. Rob also added: “They [companies] might put an event or series of events on around International Women’s Day, but is that a publicity stunt to attract customers and employees – or is that their reality 365 days a year?”

 

Rahma Javed, Director of Engineering at Deliveroo believes that there has been more awareness around the importance of diversity and lack of equality in the workplace. She said: “This has triggered a stronger sense of empathy in the workplace for women and under-represented groups.”

More awareness is a step forward, but to further improve and maintain the momentum of change, SMEs and large organisations should map a pathway to secures the future talent pipeline of female employees.

 

Sonia Meggie, Inclusion & Diversity Consultant at Business in the Community, believes the most efficient way businesses can map a pathway to support the future talent pipeline of female employees is through leadership programmes, and development plans. She explained that this means women are: “…sponsored and mentored throughout, given lots of opportunities for stretch projects, and supported to apply for external board positions.”

However, without the right structure in place, this will present a considerable challenge. Women are still under-represented at the senior level, so to correctly address this across all sectors, do we also need to drill down into other factors? Rahma said: “Yes, of course. Often when we talk about diversity, but we only explore elements like race and gender, and completely ignore other key elements such as age, education, or socio-economic background. Effectively, we are striving for diversity of thought, and it is the combination of all those elements that gives us our unique perspective.”

 

Michelle Hands, a Construction Engineer and Land Surveyor, currently runs her own company in what is typically a very male-dominated space. Her impressive career history includes roles such as a CQA engineer (quality assurance), site engineer, and project manager. She said: “In construction, LGBTQ+ and certain cultures, and ethnic minorities are severely under-represented. I would like to think that diversity and inclusion is not even a topic for discussion in the future. I also believe women have a hard time reaching senior levels if they choose to have a family. As a relatively new mum, I see motherhood as a great attribute to work; a mum with a million tasks at hand is one productive and skilful woman.” 

With many young women still struggling to get respect they deserve when striving for management roles, particularly during their late twenties and early thirties, Michelle said: “Everyone should only be judged on their capability to the job. Age, race, or gender has nothing to do with it.”

There does appear to be a need for a more concentrated effort from organisations to encourage more skilled women to apply for senior-level management roles. It is also clear from listening to our D&I professionals that as well as part of readdressing the gender employment imbalance, we need to reshape attitudes towards women in attaining senior roles across industries. But how should companies begin to tackle their hiring strategies and succession planning?

Rob said: “Begin by getting the CEO and the whole C-level board to really take it seriously as opposed to it just being a publicity/PR exercise.” While Rahma said: “They need to assess how inclusive their existing work culture is so that it’s not just about getting women through the door, but also about creating a healthy and non-toxic work environment for them in order to retain and promote them.”

What is apparent is that for continued progress to be made, there must be the right environment in place for women of all backgrounds and levels to develop. For women to achieve the highest-ranking positions within organisations, more sustainable career pathways must be created through having open conversations, while promoting awareness and recognition for outstanding achievements.

 

If you would like to discuss how we can help you develop a more inclusive team or for any further information, please get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today for a confidential discussion.