Gender diversity, disruption and disconnect

SUITS THE C-SUITE By Julie Christine O. Mateo

Business World (03/06/2017 – p.S1/2)

This week, the world celebrates International Women’s Day with an inspiring battlecry aptly condensed in the hashtag: #BeBoldforChange. As a campaign theme, being bold for change encourages people of any gender to be proactive in pushing for gender parity because while awareness of gender equality issues is important, taking concrete action has become much more necessary in today’s disruption-driven world.

Many analysts believe that the way to manage and leverage disruption is through innovation. And this is where gender diversity comes in. We at SGV believe that the way to spark innovation is by harnessing the power of different ideas from diverse groups of people who are supported by an inclusive culture.

In order to address the dramatic changes in global demographics and advances in technology, company leaders are encouraged to develop an environment where people and ideas flourish. With true gender diversity and parity in senior management and across the organizational chart, companies can better maintain growth and performance. These were some of the points made in the EY publication titled “Navigating disruption without gender diversity? Think again.” The report noted five primary disconnects that are holding back gender diversity and stifling innovation in the workplace.

THE REALITY DISCONNECT

Some people might think that the question of gender diversity will resolve itself in time. The reality is that proactive, conscious intervention is needed for gender diversity to happen. Most company Boards need to map out where their organization is now and where they want it to be within a specific timeframe, say in 10 years. Definable action plans need to be developed, with a view towards implementing key enablers for gender parity, such as inclusive networking opportunities, training, mentoring, and other development opportunities. Beyond good intentions and wishful thinking, company leadership needs to implement a strategic vision with concrete steps.

THE DATA DISCONNECT

Management expert Peter Drucker once said “What gets measured, gets managed.” This underlines one of the issues in achieving gender diversity, which is that while many companies are trying to promote it, there are few ways to effectively measure progress. Without clear metrics for gender diversity, leaders may default to simply keeping track of female employee headcounts, which, though good in itself, does not offer a clear enough picture of how the organization is promoting equal opportunities for women. Such metrics may include monitoring women’s progress on the company leadership track, understanding why they stay or leave, and finding out how having gender diversity can support the company’s profitability.

In SGV, as a member firm of EY Global, we actively sustain the career development of all our people. Since we value meritocracy, we provide our people with equal opportunities for learning and development regardless of gender. Looking at numbers, however, we already have a high ratio of 59% female to male employees as of 2017. Given a larger starting base, more women will possibly be assuming management and leadership roles over time in the organization. EY runs a specific program that promotes gender diversity called EY Women. Fast Forward, which provides messaging, ideas and a support network on a global level.

THE PIPELINE DISCONNECT

While many organizations are good at recruiting women, not all are equally good at promoting them. Organizations need clear and specific strategies to recruit, retain and promote female talent. In essence, progressive and innovation-driven organizations must take steps to become the employer of choice for women, regardless of industry. This may include creating programs that specifically address female leadership training and development.

In SGV, we are conscious about developing leadership talent, keeping an eye on top performers, both male and female, through their career pipeline. With plenty of opportunities for training and mentorship, it may come as no surprise that 48% of our partners and principals are women.

THE PERCEPTION AND PERSPECTIVE DISCONNECT

The report indicates that men and women have very different views on the gender diversity gap and how to resolve it. Most of the male respondents indicated they believe that the biggest problem was a shortage of qualified female candidates, while most women surveyed felt that the main reasons for a lack of gender parity included unsupportive cultures, organizational biases, and the conflicts of raising a family.

It is very important to create a culture of open dialogue in the organization, taking into account the ideas and perceptions of different groups, genders and cultures. Board leaders need to come up with formal programs that can address the question of gender parity from a female perspective.

Differing perceptions of a problem will lead to very different proposed solutions. The challenge lies in aligning the differing perceptions on the barriers to career progression — taking into account both male and female perspectives and bringing them closer together in an inclusive culture that encourages diversity at every level. To sustain innovation, it is vital to incorporate diverse thinking into day-to-day decision-making.

THE PROGRESS DISCONNECT

Last but not least, the survey indicates that different sectors all agree about the value of diversity, but are making uneven progress towards achieving gender parity. Many respondents shared that they believe that there is not enough diversity of thought and experience in their leadership teams, most notably in banking and finance (64%) and insurance (63%).

Boards need to ask tough questions, such as: Are they adopting best practices for gender diversity? How does the organization and its sector compare to others? And what can the company learn from other sectors that are more gender diverse?

CAN WE HANDLE DISRUPTION WITHOUT GENDER DIVERSITY?

Just as organizations are bracing themselves for disruption and devising strategies to drive innovation and performance, so too should they consider new approaches to gender diversity. Research has shown that diversity and innovation are closely linked, such as an analysis of the S&P Composite 1500 that showed firms with women in top management roles have increased “innovation intensity” and are on average worth over $40m more than companies with only male leaders. Another report found out that having 30% female representation on boards can add up to 6 percentage points to a company’s net margin.

Given these and other factors, including the projection that in 2020, nearly one billion women will be entering the global economy, it may be high time for more companies to let women take a lead in management, career development and managing disruption. Companies need to be bold for change to happen.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Julie Christine O. Mateo is a Partner and the Head of Talent of SGV & Co.