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Gender-diversity: Does your workplace have what women want?

9 min read

Gender-diversity: Does your workplace have what women want?

As we approach International Women's Day, we've pulled together a review of Gallup's 2016 study on gender-diversity in the workplace.

If you haven’t read Gallup’s report Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived, you're missing out on critical information. Regardless of where you stand on the corporate ladder or the gender scale, I recommend the read. The 94-pages are bursting with relevant content on engaging and retaining women at work.

Note, it isn't just for girls:

“All workers want a job that allows them to do what they do best and that provides greater flexibility and stability. In certain cases, women place more value on these attributes, but we did not intend for this report to be about men versus women.” 

If you don’t have time for the full-read right now, here are some of the salient points.

Does gender-diversity matter?

First, if you think gender-diversity in the workplace is irrelevant, think again. Gallup’s study proves that diversity is actually key to successful and robust teams. If your company isn’t diverse, you’re missing out.

Gender-diverse teams perform better than single-gender teams for several reasons. Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas and insights, which improves problem-solving and ultimately leads to superior business performance.”

What do women bring?

Trust me (and Gallup): you want women in your workplace. If you have to ask yourself why, here are some of the survey’s findings:

  • Women add diversity to your company, and diversity boosts the bottom line.
    For example, in a 2014 study, Gallup examined data from more than 800 business units from two companies in two industries - retail and hospitality. They found that “gender-diverse business units in the retail company had 14% higher average comparable revenue than less diverse business units" and "the hospitality company showed 19% higher average quarterly net profit that less-diverse business units.”
  • Women are more engaged than men.
    “Female employees are more likely than their male counterparts to believe that their companies meet their workplace needs. Specifically, female employees outscore male employees on 11 of the 12 employee engagement survey items and outscore male employees considerably on five of those items.” (Here are some handy employee engagement ideas to get more of your workforce on board.)
  • Women make phenomenal managers.
    “Overall, female managers eclipse their male counterparts at setting basic expectations for their employees, building relationships with their employees, encouraging a positive team environment and providing employees with opportunities to develop in their careers.”

Those are just some of the reasons that women at work rock. (Of course, there are men at work who also rock, but let's stay focused!)

Quick, hire more women!

Wait! Before you go on a hiring binge, remember this isn’t just about hiring “the right numbers to improve diversity.” If a prospective employee doesn’t have the right skillset, don’t hire them simply because you need diversity. A company should support high performers, hire and develop individuals based on their attributes and strengths, and have a rich mission-based culture.

Plus, even if you did want to binge hire women, who's to say they would want to work for you? If you want to attract and retain trail-blazing female employees, you’ve got to make sure your company has what they want. The women that are entering the workforce are the most educated generation of women in history. If what you're offering doesn't fit their needs, they can go elsewhere to find it. 

“More than ever, employers need to know and act on the factors that make their companies appealing to women. They have to make it easy for prospects to choose them over the competition. Women are consumers of the workplace and they have to want what organizations are selling.” 

What women want

Women place the highest importance on these three factors when looking for a new job:

Does it give me the ability to do what I do best?

66% of female employees believe it's “very important” to find a job that allows them to do what they do best. In comparison, just 55% of men ranked this as “very important”.

People who get to use their skills and knowledge each day are more likely to be satisfied and thrive at work. Employers should ensure their staff are well-matched to roles and tasks so they have a positive sense of purpose at work. 

Does it give a greater work-life balance and better personal well-being?

60% of women rate this as “very important”, whereas only 48% of men say the same. This is crucial. It's the biggest discrepancy in what women and men look for in a new role. 

Work-life balance and well-being is different from one woman to the next. For working mothers or women planning on having children, a lack of flexible work arrangements is a big deterrent. But, it’s not all about motherhood. “Many women have a holistic view of life and work and look for employers that do too. They are drawn to companies that encourage, support and empower them as people - not companies that see them as just workers.” 

Does it have better stability and job security?

This is almost as popular with men as it is with women. 52% of women and 50% of men rank it as “very important”. 

Women need to know their jobs are safe because their money truly matters in the home. Especially when you consider that single mothers are the heads of 80% of the 12 million single-parent families in America. Their well-being, and the well-being of their families, depend on their pay cheque.

How companies get women on board

“The challenge for leaders and managers is to understand what it takes to create and sustain gender-diversity. The answer comes down to attraction, engagement and performance management strategies, and within these strategies is the vital element of culture. It’s one thing for business to tout a modern or “family-friendly” work culture. It’s another thing to actually live it."

So, take a good look at your company culture. Does it need to be freshened up? (A real freshen-up: not a surface level tidy, but a proper up-to-the-elbow deep clean.)

 “Too many US organizations continue to follow policies created in the 1990s, if not the 1950s. Or they change their policies but forget to bring their culture along.” 

10 tips for a workplace that women want

Consider what we’ve learned: women want to be able to do their best, in a safe and stable job, that permits them a balanced well-lived life. Does your company and culture enable this? 

If not, consider Gallup’s 10 tips to effect this positive and productive change:

    1. Review your performance management systems. “The traditional performance review is one of the most dreaded activities in the workplace.” It’s okay if your reviews are hard-hitting, but they should focus on employees’ strengths and productively build on them, rather than dwell on weaknesses.
    2. Hire, develop, and reward great people management. Don’t necessarily promote someone to management because they know their processes well and have been at your company a long time. Consider promoting employees who inspire motivation in others and encourage communication and teamwork.
    3. Create trust and transparency to make flexibility work. “No organization is going to get flexibility 100% right because there is too much variance in roles. But that is not an excuse to do nothing.” Women (and many men) want a flexible and trusting workplace. Gallup’s full report has a number of reflective questions for you to truly dig down into your company’s flexible work policies. In our opinion, a good place to start is to work out loud.
    4. Communicate and activate your values and mission. “Women want to feel connected to their company [...] they care about values, and they care about purpose and cause.” You should find a way to communicate your company’s true values and the importance of each person’s contribution to this.
    5. Develop a culture of coaching. “Coaches are on-the-ground strength experts who work with leaders, managers and employees to fully develop and apply their strengths.” While the role of coach is often played by manager, it can be anyone who acts as an ambassador for other employees and allows them to develop their strengths. “The more you support coaching, the more you foster employee development and loyalty.”
    6. Re-hire, re-engineer, and retain. For a myriad of reasons, women may want to reduce hours, relocate, or change their travel schedules. Be cognizant of this and carefully consider how and what you can accommodate to keep talent within your company.
    7. Pay attention to strengths over stereotypes. Don’t paint everyone with the same brush. Employees have different strengths and weaknesses, and that’s okay. Try to recognize and reward these strengths frequently. “Recognize and celebrate employees for their talents and strengths. Acknowledge small and big wins.”
    8. Build a culture of well-being. “Too often, promoting well-being is confused with implementing a corporate well-being program. But it’s much more than that [...] create a culture of well-being." Make sure employees know that your organization accepts and encourages them to take time out of their day for well-being activities.
    9. Encourage people to get to know one another. Having friends at work is important to women, and it improves both well-being and engagement levels. “Encourage friendships by creating the conditions under which relationships can naturally thrive.” In doing that, you'll create a culture of teamwork in the workplace.
    10. Make your workplace kid-friendly. “Kids are a company’s greatest competition for attracting and retaining women in the workplace.” If you want to keep great women and mothers in your organization, encourage them to take the time they need to fulfil their role as a mother.

So, there you have it - some quick-fire key points from Gallup's study of women in the workplace! After reading this article, hopefully the importance of gender-diversity in a successful organization is clearer than ever. Achieving it can be tricky - you may need to have some hard, honest conversations about your company culture. But, if it results in more spectacular female employees in your organization, how can you afford not to?

Please note - all quotes in this article are from Gallup's report, unless stated otherwise.

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Hannah Price

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