What is the importance of a diverse workforce? And how can we attract and retain talent?
The journey of gender diversity in Australian workplaces, for the majority of businesses, still has a long way to go; while awareness of the issue seems to be increasing, there is no quick fix so progress remains frustratingly slow.
The most recent report from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in November 2016 reveals that:
•On average, men earn nearly $27,000 more than women per year.
•Women account for 19.7 per cent of senior managers, less than a quarter of board directors and less than 15 per cent of CEOs.
•Only 12.7 per cent of boards have a gender diversity target.
•In IT Services, only 25.3 per cent of all employees are female and the pay gap increased in 2015-16 compared to the previous year.
As a specialist recruitment agency, we can directly affect the gender demographic in the workplace for our clients, which is why it's important that we understand and drive diversity, both internally and externally.
Positive impacts of improved gender diversity
Beyond its obvious ethical importance, promoting equality in the workplace has been proven to have valuable benefits for organisations that focus on it.
According to McKinsey and Company, organisations in the top quartile regarding gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to enjoy above-average financial returns for their industry. Similarly, research in the UK revealed that greater gender diversity in leadership roles drive higher performance increases, with a 3.5 per cent earnings increase for every 10 per cent increase in diversity.
Accessing benefits such as these, particularly for organisations in the traditionally male dominated IT services sector, may require some significant changes.
Methods of improving gender diversity
Changing ways of work - many driven by digital technology - have made greater flexibility for workers a reality, and it is here that organisations can look to for inspiration. Introducing new initiatives in terms of office hours and the option to work remotely can improve retention of employees, particularly for females looking to return to the workforce following maternity leave.
Removing barriers for newcomers entering an organisation can also play a role. The Australian Government's National Innovation and Science Agenda introduced incentives to encourage more women to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields, and many large businesses have similar initiatives in place.
It's not just the government getting involved. A number of large businesses are doing their part to improve diversity. ANZ is using Gender balanced recruitment practices, where a female must be interviewed for every role and the interview panel must have a female member of staff, Westpac has trialled Blind CVs to remove bias and stereotyping and KPMG has pledged for 30 per cent of their Partners to be female by 2020.
Other initiatives to improve diversity include raising awareness through training on unconscious and implicit bias so it can be consciously addressed; providing flexibility on interview times; structuring your interviews so the same questions are covered with each candidate to remove unconsciously biased questions; and even providing onsite or subsidised day care facilities for mothers returning to work.
The key to improving diversity long-term
One of the critical areas businesses must focus on is retention - not simply increasing the hiring and salaries of women in the workplace, but devising initiatives to ensure they remain with the company.
The IT services industry moves incredibly quickly, and anyone who steps away from their role for several months or more may find it difficult to return - organisations with schemes in place to ease that return are more likely to enjoy stronger retention figures and better diversity amongst employees.
Bringing gender diversity to the fore at Progressive IT
At Progressive IT, we're making gender diversity a focal point of our business - both internally and when we talk with our clients - so we can make a positive impact.
It's about equality and diversity when it comes to gender, not favouring one over another. Our processes are designed to ensure we are always considering all genders when looking for candidates in all roles, and regularly checking in with clients to understand their own diversity needs and strategies.
Following an internal diversity and equality awareness day, several of Progressive's consultants pledged to present a minimum of one female candidate for every role we work on for a client. We've also conducted training around writing gender neutral advertisements because certain words and phrases make roles less appealing to females.
Our approach to headhunting candidates has also changed based on observations that female candidates tend to need more contact points before they are comfortable progressing compared to male counterparts.
Lastly, we have implemented a new internal training program - IdentiFy. IdentiFy is a 12-month training program aimed at senior females within our business to enhance their skills, which we hope will improve the gender split at director and board level within Progressive by 2020.
Interested in attending our Gender Diversity Event?
On June 21, 2017, we're holding a gender diversity event in Melbourne. It will be based on “How to attract and retain diverse candidates throughout the recruitment process”.
It's a chance to meet with other IT industry insiders to discuss what we and others at the event are doing to drive change. Diversity is a journey and it's a process of learning - this event will allow attendees share their stories and to discuss recruitment and retention techniques for a more gender diverse workforce
Gender diversity is an issue that's on everyone's radar, but until businesses take real action, progress will continue to be slower than it should be. We're doing our part to make a difference, and recognise that establishing feedback loops internally and with the wider market is an integral part to improving gender diversity throughout the IT workforce.