International Women’s Day shines a spotlight on the need for greater gender parity

Profile picture for user Diana Cruz Solash By Diana Cruz Solash March 6, 2019
Summary:
On the eve of International Women's Day, Infor's Diana Cruz Solash looks at how technology can help enhance diversity and inclusion in the talent pool

Woman leads business discussion with diverse participants © fizkes - shutterstock

Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate the critical roles women play in every aspect of our lives, from business and politics, to entertainment and education. However, statistics show that gender disparity in the workplace is still holding women back from achieving their full potential and hindering organizations from fully benefiting from their contributions.

Inexplicably, women are often overlooked for many jobs, even though severe talent shortages plague many industries. Positions are often left unfilled because enterprises say they can’t find 'appropriate' candidates. This can change. Technology can help organizations realize their intent to hire the best talent from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

A report card on progress

Women (and men) have been campaigning for equal job opportunities and fair compensation throughout modern history, yet the most recent Women in the Workplace study shows an indisputable gender gap continues to exist:

  • 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is a woman.
  • For every 100 men promoted to manager, 79 women are promoted.
  • Male managers outnumber female managers 68% to 32%.
  • Only 38% of organizations set goals for gender parity in hiring, and only 12% report to their stakeholders the diversity statistics.

Workforce shortages and skills gaps

While the issues directly impact women, enterprises, overall, are being adversely impacted by the disparity. Businesses are having difficulty filling new positions, as well as those vacated by retiring Baby Boomers. Some industries, like manufacturing, technology, and healthcare, are experiencing workforce shortages often called crisis-level.

By 2020 – next year – there will be an estimated 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them, reports Code.Org. To meet such gaps, organizations will need to invest in building future-focused skills among today’s and tomorrow’s workforce, as well as challenge potentially outdated definitions of what ‘appropriate’ talent is.

Inclusion & Diversity benefits everyone

In addition to losing out on talent, organizations leave value on the table when Inclusion & Diversity is lacking. Studies show that the benefits of an inclusive workplace and diverse workforce are undeniable. For example, companies with the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians, says a McKinsey study. Diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform counterparts that are in the lower quartile for diversity.

More inclusive and diverse teams are also more creative problem-solvers. When people from different contexts work together, their unique perspectives often lead to greater creativity. Leaders who appreciate diverse backgrounds are more likely to encourage and welcome colleagues to speak up, further opening doors for ideas to be heard and valued. Studies show that this, in turn, drives innovation and creates momentum, making it easier to recruit new forward-thinking individuals.

Overcoming obstacles

Most organizations understand that Inclusion & Diversity – including gender parity – is good for business. So, what gets in the way?

In general, outdated thinking manifests itself in many forms, from assuming a four-year degree is always mandatory, to downplaying practical experience gained in the military or while working for volunteer organizations. Unconscious bias, a natural human tendency, also can cloud hiring decisions. We all have an unconscious bias that is shaped by our life experiences, culture, and background. A bias is a shortcut our brains use to quickly process and sort the overwhelming amount of information that comes our way. An affinity to favor people we perceive to be ‘like us’ is a natural human trait.

Because they can happen at an unconscious level, such biases may not align with our intentions or front-of-mind commitments. We may not even realize we are tipping the scale toward a particular group. Such clouded preferences, though, can impact hiring and promotion decisions, who we mentor, even how we give feedback to our colleagues. The preferential treatment may be subtle and hard to identify until a pattern starts to surface. This is why real-time reporting and analytics are so important to the organization.

Technology supports Inclusion & Diversity

Modern human capital management (HCM) solutions help organizations address the many challenges they are facing, from the need to accelerate hiring, to the desire to create a better balance in the workforce. Technologies like predictive analytics and Artificial Intelligence help organizations reinvent outdated practices and apply science-driven algorithms with objectivity. Here are some examples of how technology helps:

  • Accessible metrics. Every organization should track workplace metrics and share the data with stakeholders. Modern solutions feature user-based dashboards and self-service reporting tools so managers can analyze trends, investigate driving factors, and track personalized Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Without tracking progress, it’s impossible to know if new initiatives are working. Sharing progress with internal teams shows a commitment to making changes and provides a report card on progress.
  • An objective referee. Talent Science solutions can help decision makers focus on required criteria, rather than personal preferences and subjective qualities. From software that anonymizes resumes, to behavior assessments that focus on definable skills, advanced solutions help organizations improve retention, performance, inclusion and diversity. It’s important, though, to test algorithms to ensure there is no adverse impact. Always, managers must oversee recommendations from AI-driven solutions and monitor for misapplications.
  • Tailoring talent strategies. Artificial Intelligence can help organizations identify not only who best matches the requirements for a role, but also which individuals are likely to excel over the longer term and stay with the company longer. Talent solutions can collect and track data relevant to the position and skills required. Solutions can help managers identify critical milestones on the path to success and spot early warning signs that more training is needed or reassignment to a different position may be helpful. Predictive analytics can also point to potential retention risks and help managers identify who they need to spend time with – providing mentoring, feedback, and so on.
  • Streamlining tedious tasks. When routine administrative tasks are streamlined, managers can focus on more meaningful uses of time, such as mentoring team members and discussing their career goals. Taking time to make employees feel safe and welcomed leads to greater engagement and improved productivity.

Concluding thoughts

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is an opportune time to recommit to making full inclusion and gender parity a reality. Improvements in engagement, productivity, performance, and profitability are just some of the benefits. A more innovative organization is perhaps one of the most valuable results of having a workforce that is fully engaged, sharing insights, and trouble-shooting obstacles. For companies struggling to manage their metrics and get programs off the ground, turning to Talent Science solutions can help. Companies already working on Inclusion & Diversity initiatives will benefit from the advanced predictive capabilities and augmented-analytics Talent Science solutions offer.

As many industries face talent shortages, making inclusive decisions around hiring and tapping into the talent pool without bias (which can be limiting) are critical. Along with tools and insights, a company culture supporting inclusion and diversity must be present.