As part of my Masters in Business Administration, I conducted a qualitative and quantitative research to determine what factors were most important for the development of a gender-balanced workplace. The results confirmed some of my preconceptions, but blew others out of the water.
For example, I had initially thought women would prefer workplaces that offered flexibility in working hours. This, I'd thought, would help in balancing the demands of family life. However, my research proved this wasn't the case.
For the vast majority of my interview subjects, factors such as having salaries commensurate with those of male colleagues and being able to work towards defined goals sat on top of their priority list.
My research showed that the professional desires of women are no different from those of men. They want to be working as part of a successful team and utilize their potential to the hilt.
As they embrace the goal of establishing a gender-balanced workforce and promote gender equality, organisations need to look critically at the way they recruit new staff. An area that should be examined is the advertisements used to notify prospects of new positions.
Experience shows men will apply for a job even if they only match 60 percent of the required criteria. Women, on the other hand, are likely to only apply if they feel they meet them all.
For this reason, job ads should be written in ways that attract a range of applicants with varying experience and qualifications. The ads should also incorporate images that show a diverse workplace, one which promotes gender equality, and where they would be made to feel welcome.
In addition to traditional advertising, it's also worth making use of the social networks of women who are already within the organisation. Recommendations from people you know are very important and so a 'heads up' on a new job from a friend can be crucial.
Once applications have been received, it's worth implementing a policy of 'blind' reviews. Here, the names and genders of applicants are removed from CVs before they are evaluated by the recruitment panel. This removes any unintended bias that might creep in and ensures the most suitable person is offered the job.
Once new female staff members are employed, it's important to ensure there are opportunities for professional development. Formal and informal mentoring programs should be established that link new staff with more experienced professionals who can provide guidance and advice.
An example of external mentoring program is the Women Lead Australia initiative supported by global IT services company, HCL Technologies. This program involves pairing mentees with senior mentors who meet with them on a regular basis to discuss career planning and skills development.
Such mentoring programs, for professional development, help to ensure there is a pipeline of developing talent that will rise through the organisation to its highest levels. No one is self-made and it's by working with others that ensures employees reach their full potential.
There's no question that the efforts required to achieve diversity are worth it. When you consider the world of the future, where there will be increasing usage of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, having half the population under represented will mean many of the potential benefits are not realised. Let's take steps today to address the issue.
Joseph Smith, Director Products Cloud Business at Singtel-Optus was a Mentor in Women lead Australia Chapter 2. Women Lead Australia is a 1:1 professional mentoring platform for aspiring corporate women leaders to receive personal mentoring from c-level executives of leading Australian organizations. Chapter 2 witnessed participation from 18 leading organisations and 30 leaders across Australia. To know more about Women Lead Australia,click here.