Diversity or Equality – What’s the Path Forward?

Gender Diversity and Inclusion are hot topics that are being discussed in HR War rooms and even in board rooms today. What are we doing to increase gender diversity in our workforce? Are we promoting our women talent? Are we hiring more women talent? While we are trying to answer these questions and crawl our way towards”Becoming a Gender Equal World”, we are forgetting the core”object” and focusing only on the “subject”.

The object is “Women” and “Building Equality” is the objective. This is not a frenzy to just increase women population in your workplace. We know that women have been neglected for long across the globe and now  when there is a war for talent organizations are scrambling to get the 50% talent population on- board.  Yes!! more than 50% of the current working population are women across the globe and yet only 5% of the top 100 companies in the world have women leaders! Why? #think !

Now for some reality check, I have been doing workshops with mid to senior level women across India and I have observed that there is a unique quality in women that helps to hold them back (forgive my pun here). The quality is that women are more compassionate than men!! They are willing to step back and not raise a fight as a man would do if he does not get what he wants. I think women ‘hold back‘ a lot. If women let go of this trait and focus on BEING more ASSERTIVE it will help their cause. More over it is becoming very important that women need to learn this art and learn it fast. So lets see what happens to those who become Assertive. They of- course rise up the corporate ladder and then transform themselves to become- no not leaders but “bossy” leaders as most people (men and women) call them in my research survey. Men and increasingly women working under such “bossy” leaders find it extremely difficult to operate.The reason could be residing in the minority struggle that women face on their way upward that they don’t just change they transform to a whole new individual. Its also possible that they now want to command and want others to notice them, want others to see the brand that they have self created, nurtured and expanding on a day to day basis. While I give it to these “bossy” leaders as the journey to the top was not easy, I think they need to re-transform back to the compassionate yet assertive women in-charge image. This will not only help their cause, but also the thousands who look up to’her’ as a role model.  #think @womenleaders Having said the above, I must confess that women face umpteen challenges in the workplace, I am saying this after interacting with so many women and understanding their pain areas. Men – trust me you don’t face as many challenges as women do. Life is more easy and good. 

I started reflecting on the reason why men dont understand and feel the pain women face. The answer to it is – “EMPATHY“. The core trait world is seeming to lack globally. Until you empathise and feel how it would be in other’s shoes, you will not be able to do justice to any cause, leave alone Gender Diversity. This could be a reason why most gender diversity agendas in firms are just a great avenue to publicize globally that the firm is committed and doing something about it. But in true sprit nothing happens. It not random hiring of women talent at junior levels that as #HR you should focus on, nor should it be running mindless ‘gender bias’ workshop without understanding what, where and why the bias exists, of running (govt mandated) POSH workshops as apart of gender diversity agenda, or promoting women talent just for the sake of increasing numbers in the organization hierarchy. Such Gender Diversity steps will lead no where except to disaster in the long run. Smart organizations tackle this challenge in a phased approach with a goal in mind. Such organizations start with the root cause, which is #leadership. Can we change every leaders mind set, possibly not, and can we find those leaders willing to support this cause and become sponsors – Of-course you can. Start with these sponsers from leadership who will help #HR create this business case and lend support through the journey. 

So Step 1 – Identify your sponsors.

While I am happy to see women leaders emerging across the world in politics and other areas, its still a long way to go!! As per EY research its more than a 100 years to achieve gender equality !! Hope keeps us alive and its this hope that one day maybe sooner than 100 years we shall achieve this equality. I will also urge you to change your thinking from Gender Diversity to Equality in workforce.  Why Diversity? Why a quota for women? Why not stop thinking about Male vs Female talent and think of just Talent ! Its important that we change our mind set first and move towards the larger aim of Equality. There are numerous research papers that suggest women are an invaluable asset to any organization and including them and their thoughts/views has a direct impact on the bottom line performance of any organization. So lets pledge to move to a more equitable world where we understand each other’s problems and support each other men and women both for creating a better working world.