The Importance of Gender Equality in the Workplace and its Effect on your Business
Around the world, women have been at the receiving end of all sorts of atrocities. From domestic violence to gender pay gaps, sexual harassment, along with being denied the basic human right to be educated or having access to health care facilities, patriarchal society has largely ignored the pleas of women and the movement to achieving gender equality.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report of 2022, the overall gender parity score rose from 67.9% in 2021 to 68.1% in 2022. Only 30 of the 145 countries registered progress in closing the gender gap by just 1 percentage point. According to UN Women, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender equality and has derailed hard-won progress not only on “SDG 3,” but on all the SDGs.
So, why is gender diversity important?
Traditional societal gender stereotypes or gender norms have an adverse effect not only at an individual level, but also at a global level. According to a report by the World Bank, the lack of workplace gender diversity has resulted in large economic costs for many countries. On a per capita basis, gender inequality in earnings could lead to losses of $23,620 per person, globally.
This is a moral imperative that transcends any 'social' notions inherent within 'ESG'. So, how does one promote gender equality in the workplace, a more diverse workforce, and by extension board gender diversity? How can societies support women entrepreneurs and female employees? What are its positive effects on one’s business? Let’s take a look.
1. Economic Growth
Women participating in the workforce will lead to better economic- decision-making processes, which will eventually lead to sustainable economies and benefit society at large. Working women tend to help in boosting productivity and increasing economic diversification, along with income equality. According to UN Women, increasing the female employment rates in OECD countries to match Sweden could boost GDP by over 6 trillion US dollars.
Women’s equality is good for companies as it increases not only employment and leadership opportunities for women, but also increases the organisational effectiveness and growth of the company. Along with keeping the company’s profitability in mind, empowering women in the economy is helpful in attaining some of the UN SDGs, namely: Goal 5 - gender equality; Goal 8 - to promote full and productive employment and decent work for all; Goal 1 - of ending poverty; Goal 3 on ensuring health; Goal 10 on reducing inequalities; and Goal 2 on food security.
2. Inclusivity and Diversity
People from different genders tend to approach the same thing with a different mindset. While ensuring more women’s participation in the workforce, companies are attracting a diversified set of talent, skills, and strengths which will help in collaborating and working more effectively. It will also lead to a more creative environment for co-workers, which will help in problem-solving tasks. With gender diversity, companies can lead to new innovations and new ways of solving problems that will improve business performance. Good diversity management is the key to a company's success.
3. Positive Reputation of the Company
In our previous article on the importance of UN SDGs for your business, emphasis was laid on the younger workforce and investors and their interests regarding the environment, and whether enterprises are catering to environment sustainability goals. The same goal applies here. By promoting gender equality, companies can help build a positive image to attract a larger pool of talent. In a Glassdoor survey, it was found that 76% of job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. In order for any company or business to succeed, they have to take into consideration the mindset of the youth and marginalised groups, especially women.
As a result, the company is making progress towards some of the key sustainable development goals like reducing poverty, hunger, providing quality education and gender equality, along with reduced inequalities and decent work, which makes for an impressive brand reputation in the job market for employers and stakeholders.
4. Employee Retention
In order to keep your business up and running, it is of crucial importance to retain the best talent in the company. Companies that are not gender equal run the risk of losing the best talent for specific individual roles, regardless of their brand or reputation in the world. If prospective employees, especially women, don’t see themselves aligned in a leadership role within a company, they are more likely to not apply for the company. Companies should offer gender equality policies and practices in order to engage more women’s participation in the long run. Giving women flexibility and the same choice of managerial roles in the company is assisting in more diverse leadership and helps retention for the long run.
5. Customer Targeting Improved
Most of the products in the market have different sets of customer bases. However, in a traditional work environment, most of the marketing and product managers are male. In order for companies to have successful product launches or services, it is essential to involve women in top-level decisions without restricting them to a particular demographic. In this way, with women’s involvement, companies would be able to target a customer base effectively, which will lead to a company being more profitable in the future.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental right or a sustainable development goal, but it is a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. The pandemic has shown the inequalities which have predominantly existed for women for centuries, and that to promote equality in businesses is an immediate imperative.
In order for women to shatter the ‘glass ceiling,’ it is incumbent upon countries and organisations to make gender equality a necessity in all workplaces and to realise the endless potential of women through their unique skill set, different perspective, and long-term vision for the company’s future and the environment as a whole.
Update: For further information on gender equality and women in STEM in particular, as well as some excellent links for more in-depth reading, please refer to this excellent article at Website Planet, by Jennifer Gregory.