Tales from the Trenches: A Step-by-Step Guide to Gender and Corporate Equality
On the heels of perhaps one of the most equally dramatic and progressive years for diversity, many companies worked hard to level the playing field for women in the workplace on a global scale. Yet it’s important to recognize that this work doesn’t end with shattering the glass ceiling. It is about building a different structure, or rather, creating a different environment for all working women, men, and families—one with more doors, stairs, and elevators. Focusing efforts on gender equality can be a good first step on the road to creating that diverse and inclusive workplace.
Today, many businesses have the power and resources to create a ripple effect, but sometimes they don’t know where to start. The more organizations can create a bias-free work environment on the basis of gender, the more leverage they will have to advocate for minorities, LGBTQ, and differently abled employees, as well as members of all generations. Diversity and inclusion initiatives go hand in hand with advocating for the advancement of women in leadership roles, equal pay, and taking a stand against microaggressions and harassment in the workplace.
For this strategy to be successful, it’s imperative that organizations not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. Companies must find ways to hold themselves accountable for the diversity and inclusion (D&I) goals they set and regularly track their progress. One way to do this is by participating in global standards that take action to create this desired corporate environment. For example, Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. The organization works with 170 organizations in more than 48 countries and 23 industries across the globe, including SAP. In fact, SAP was the first multinational IT company to achieve the EDGE certification in 2016 and was recertified in 2018. EDGEis just one global standard recognizing enterprises’ strategic commitment to creating a gender equal workplace.
Here are four steps your organization can take right now to strive toward gender equality, and by doing so, address internal diversity and inclusion initiatives holistically:
Step 1: Set Goals
Diversity in 2019 is no longer a “nice to have.” The first step in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is goal setting. Participating in a global standard, such as EDGE, can help organizations understand where they are, giving them a better idea of the goals they need to set to move forward. For example, every time a company gets recertified by EDGE, it receives comparative data regarding its progress. EDGE looks at variables such as recruitment and promotion of women, leadership opportunities for women, mentoring, workplace policies and processes, and gender-balance data. This type of data also helps organizations track their progress toward their goals to ensure accountability. Global recertifications, such as EDGE, also provide specific action plans so an organization is guided in these endeavors.
Step 2: Empower Everyone to Take an Active Role
Women are not the only stakeholders who should be advocating for gender equality. Every person—regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—plays an active role in maintaining a positive, innovative, and diverse workplace environment. For example, according to LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company:
- Only 27 percent of employees say managers regularly challenge biased language and behavior when they observe it.
- Some 40 percent of employees say their company quickly addresses disrespectful behavior toward women.
- Just 32 percent think their company acts swiftly on claims of sexual harassment.
To end this type of behavior, everyone needs to understand the role they play in creating an inclusive work environment by becoming an advocate and taking responsibility for ensuring the well-being of all employees. It’s also important not to ostracize men from the conversation and to include them in diversity initiatives. For example, one of the action plans EDGE suggests is securing the uptake of paternity and parental leave for men, to empower them to make use of parental/paternal leave and demonstrate it is not correlated with negative career consequences.
Step 3: Review Your Process and Root Out Bias
It’s not common to think about how bias can be deeply entrenched in our processes, but it is there. To put diversity and inclusion initiatives first, organizations must look carefully at their hiring processes and ask themselves how they’re showing up for diversity in the larger market against competitors. “Women aren’t applying for the jobs we have,” is no longer an excuse for hiring managers. To attract the most talented and most diverse talent, it’s important to look at how job descriptions fare when it comes to using gender-neutral language and how D&I is considered at each stage of the hiring process. While HR departments have a large responsibility in accelerating corporate equality, they are not the only party that should be held accountable. Impacting change starts with having the right processes in place to search for, interview, and eventually hire new talent. Hiring is a great place to start, and then all subsequent processes that serve to allocate work, reward, retain, and promote employees are fair game for analysis.
Step 4: Invest in Your Organization’s Future
It’s true, more diverse companies have better returns and are more financially successful. According to a recent study by Morgan Stanley, high gender diversity companies have delivered better returns, with lower volatility, compared with their low diversity or sector peers. To become more inclusive, it’s important to invest in your organization’s future. By advocating for overall diversity and investing in programming that pushes the needle forward, businesses can position themselves for an increase in overall ROI. By funding and utilizing employee network groups to listen to what employees are saying at every level, organizations can implement D&I programming that addresses the needs of all employees.
Looking Forward To address diversity and inclusion holistically, it’s important for organizations to set themselves up for success and take active steps to advocate for gender equality. When looking to accomplish corporate equality and drive change at all levels of the organization, it’s important for businesses to turn a critical eye to what needs to be changed in conjunction with a global certification. An enterprise-wide, global commitment is a baseline need to empower all employees to achieve their goals—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or otherwise.
Shuchi Sharma is the global head and VP of Gender Equality and Intelligence at SAP. She is a purpose-driven global ambassador with vast experience in strategic transformation, consulting, marketing, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.For more information, visit: https://www.sap.com/corporate/en/company/diversity.html