Progress towards gender equality in the UK had already begun to slow prior to the arrival of Covid-19. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, the UK fell from 16th to 21st place this year, falling behind on health, education, economy and politics.
Now, looking at just a snapshot of the current picture, the pandemic has exacerbated issues for women. Despite the female employment rate reaching a record high this year, women were more likely to be furloughed than their male counterparts.
Aside from the obvious implications for women, who would be further stalling and jeopardising their careers due to archaic gender stereotypes, companies are at risk of losing women in leadership. Economists are increasingly concerned over the impacts that this ‘shecession’ is going to have on the economy, predicting that the loss of women in work will lead to a “much deeper and more persistent recession.”
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, there are a myriad of issues that need to be addressed. From a workplace perspective, tackling gender diversity starts with bringing in CVs and then retaining and progressing your female talent. The problem that arises here is that women screen themselves out of the candidate pool before they even apply; whereas men only feel the need to meet 60 percent of the job criteria, often women will only apply if they meet all of them.
Bringing in female CVs
To overcome these barriers and build a more diverse workforce, job advertisements must be written with both genders in mind. The requirements of the job should be carefully considered to ensure that what is required is really required. Both the language and tone used should be neutral, and words perceived as either masculine or feminine omitted. Businesses need to create gender inclusive job adverts that will encourage direct applications from men and women at an equal rate.
As NTT DATA UK looks to recruit more women, at every grade, we are making sure that our job ads do all of the above – and more. Our job descriptions emphasise the perks that not only appeal to women but help them to overcome common gender-based challenges. For example, we highlight our flexible working scheme and maternity programme to attract more female candidates.
Following this, recruitment often occurs through agencies. This is where we are demonstrating our dedication to building a diverse workforce. We are taking a bold, game-changing approach to the hiring process by incentivising recruiting agencies to bring in more female CVs. We have just rolled this out and will continue to measure our progress.
Retaining and progressing female talent
To keep women in the business, we must provide greater support geared to individual needs. They must feel respected, valued and psychologically safe. Businesses must provide women with the same opportunities and challenges that men are given. We must be aware of any subtle biases that may otherwise be overlooked. It’s essential that leaders create an authentic environment for people to survive and thrive in, regardless of their gender.
This all starts when a business receives applications, so it’s important to manage the recruitment process appropriately. Here at NTT DATA UK, we do this by ensuring that female candidates are interviewed by women in a similar role. Once they are hired, we make sure that they have all the right support in order to progress and develop. For example, our Women’s Business Network (WBN) provides a supportive professional business network where women are able to contribute and communicate their needs in an open and honest environment. In September, they launched a new workstream initiative called POWER, that strives for at least 30% female representation across all grades of the business. More recently, the WBN released new advice encouraging women to approach their performance review in the same manner as their male counterparts, following a review of how women were progressing within NTT DATA UK – all with the aim of helping bring the company closer towards its POWER goals.
These are the basics; the things we have to do, but businesses looking to really make a difference must go further. Leaders should challenge themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone and make sure that they are constantly learning and supporting female colleagues. We have a long way to go and the route is through education, awareness and compassion.
To test our leadership, one of our diversity initiatives involves reverse mentoring. I’m very grateful for what I’ve learned from reverse mentoring and recommend that all corporations integrate it into to core of their culture.
CEOs, as the leaders of large influential businesses, must recognise their role in shaping gender diversity in years to come, acting quickly to rectify inequalities and discrimination. By attracting more women into your business, investing in your employees and encouraging them to grow with you, we can accelerate our progress towards a fairer, more equitable world.
It has been proven that diversity in business leads to better financial results, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do.