The Importance of Workplace and Gender Diversity in 2022
Workplace diversity has been an important topic for businesses and organisations globally in recent years. Different studies have shown that there are strong links between diversity – for example, gender, racial, or religious diversity – innovation, and increased revenue.
To create diverse workspaces, Asian businesses have begun to embark on more inclusive initiatives. Japan's GMO Internet Group is one such organisation that has spearheaded inclusive initiatives, including launching a childcare facility to care for their employees' children. Their efforts include creating a space for play and learning with professional caregivers and bringing in cooks to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for the children and their employees. In doing so, GMO Internet Group has made it much easier for parents, especially women, to be part of an organisa-tion that aims to ease their challenges.
Mariana Dobre, Director of the EMEA region, has observed that in the past three years, GMO Research, which is part of the GMO Internet Group, has appointed more women in managerial positions compared to five years ago. This applies within both their international and domestic teams. In addition, the company has arranged for changes in their employees' work schedules, through providing technological support for remote working, especially during the pandemic, which allows for better flexibility for their staff.
While efforts towards workplace and gender diversity are on the rise in Asia, the pandemic has highlighted that there is still more that needs to be done within this region to achieve some form of equality. Studies have shown that women are employed in more dispensable positions and are more likely to be subjected to cultural norms than their male counterparts.
However, it is worth noting that this gender disparity is not exclusive to Asia and does exist in many parts of the world. In a recent interview, Kristin Luck, the President of ESOMAR and the founder of Women in Research (WIRe), shared with us that in her journey up the ladder there was a noticeable lack of female presence in management positions in corporate spaces. Women employees are commonly seen in entry or mid-level positions, but this is in stark contrast with the upper echelons of the business world, where females are still the minority. In addition, Kristin pointed out that when women's voices, ideas, and contributions are absent at the executive level, it can have a detrimental impact on our industry's future.
Globally, according to Geohive, women outnumber men in many parts of the developed world and are playing a more critical role than ever in the growing global economy. Of brand purchases made, 85% are made by women. Still, only 3% of advertising agency creative directors are women, indicating a fundamental perspective that is being missed in the industry.
According to Kristin, women are the key drivers of economic success, both for companies and brands. However, despite women's crucial roles, they are often an afterthought to marketers and researchers. Women are considered the ‘muscle’ behind more than half of research conducted today, but even then, less than 10% of the Honomichl 25 largest research firms have a woman leading at the top.
A Women in the Workplace report indicated that 74% of companies’ CEOs are making gender diversity a priority. However, that message appears to have been lost in translation. Less than half of workers believe that the issue is a priority for their CEO, and only one-third see it as a top priority for their direct manager. While Kristin acknowledges that committing to diversity is hard work, she believes that if diversity is not a priority at the C-level, with KPI’s to measure the success of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs, it will not be a priority across the company.
This discrepancy may potentially impact a company's financial success, as multiple studies have shown that firms with greater diversity in senior management tend to achieve better results. McKinsey's Organizational Health Index finds that “firms with three or more women in top positions score higher than their peers” – findings supported by studies by the Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland, among others.
Fast Company recently reported that Catalyst, a non-profit focused on expanding opportunities for women in business, “found a 26% boost in return on invested capital in companies with women on their boards versus companies with no women”. Another study conducted by MIT found that diversity leads to better products and services. As such, it is safe to say that diversity improves business performance, employee morale, and the products and services that are developed and sold.
Implementing workplace diversity beyond just gender can be challenging, especially within larger organisations. Still, Kristin believes that organisations can take steps to move in the right direction to improve greater diversity and equality:
Invest in initiatives that support women, particularly by reviewing employee compensation and closing pay gaps.
Set targets and hold leaders accountable for reaching them. Firms that set targets saw the most progress in female representation at entry levels, while those without formal targets lost ground in the three years between 2012 and 2015.
Identify and interrupt gender or other bias, from hiring (where we know even recruiting software can cause disparity) to performance reviews.
Do more to give ALL employees the flexibility to find their balance between work and life (taking into account that managers and staff have different ideas about what this means). Programs that benefit women also benefit men.
Businesses may overcome representation hurdles and successfully achieve diversity in their workspaces by considering these approaches. This is crucial, especially in light of the current COVID-19 situation, in which it has been reported that 1 in 4 women are now considering leaving the workforce and downshifting their careers. It is estimated that if this workforce gender regression is allowed to happen in each sector, it could have a detrimental effect on global GDP growth to the tune of US$1 trillion by 2030.
That said, Kristin is optimistic that a more inclusive workforce will take shape, as the pandemic has made companies more aware of the profound impact diverse teams can have on performance and are now adopting gender-inclusive policies and practices.
Since its inception, WIRe has evolved into a network of over 12,000 community members around the globe, focused on career development, education, and one-to-one mentoring. WIRe’s mission is to create more opportunities for women to step into senior management roles and have an equal voice in marketing research, which is paramount to brand success and the future of our industry.