Gender Diversity: just a buzzword?
Gender Diversity: just a buzzword?
Gender diversity should be much more than a buzzword, however in today’s current climate it is far from a reality. Despite numerous studies proving that gender diversity is advantageous for companies, there is still a lack of women in leadership. In Germany, despite accounting for 46% of the German workforce, only 32% of women hold supervisory positions and 25% of managerial positions. For us at Glasford International and other Executive Search companies the issue this poses is a leak of female executives in the talent pool to provide a gender-balanced short list to diversity-conscious clients.
One of the key factors that contributes to the lack of diversity in the German workplace is gender segregation. Although gender equality is improving in Germany, the Gender Equality Index 2017 (of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)) named gender segregation as the main factor impeding equality in the domain of work.
The Gender Equality Index (GEI), published by the European Institute for Gender Equality, measures gender gaps between men and women in six domains (work, money, knowledge, time, power and health) in order to effectively examine the progress and challenges in achieving gender equality in the EU. Each EU Member State are then assigned scores between one for total inequality and 100 for full equality. Although gender equality is improving in Germany, its most recent 2017 evaluation shows that it is below average compared to the rest of the EU (65.5 vs. 66.2). The report states, “…gender segregation in the labour market is a reality for both women and men. Nearly 31% of women compared to 9% of men work in education, human health and social work activities (EHW). Six times more men (38%) than women (6%) work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations.”
The current statistics of female representation on the top level in Germany is less than satisfactory. Women account for 46% of the workforce, yet only hold 32% of supervisory positions and 25% of managerial positions. EY conducted a survey in 2018 aimed at German medium-sized companies in order to break down female representation on a management level. One of the questions asked was “is it difficult for you to attract enough qualified women to your company?” Out of the five sectors, which answered “yes” the highest proportion. This difficulty to find competent female leaders is reflected in the gender proportion in these industries. According to a CRIFBÜRGEL study in 2018, women make up 9.3% of leadership positions in mechanical engineering, 9.7% in construction and 11.2% in energy supply. For Glasford International Deutschland, as Executive Search company, active in these sectors of IT, technology and production, the lack of women in STEM occupations is a struggle in relation to gender diversity on the management level.
Although the lack of female participation in STEM industries does contribute to the lack of female representation in leadership, it should not be overlooked, that for those women actively participating, their gender appears to be a factor impeding their career progression. The Ivanti Women in Tech Survey Report 2018 found that almost two thirds of the participants say that they are disadvantaged because of their gender. E.g. by rejecting their proposals, constantly interrupting conferences or giving preference to male colleagues for promotion. Not being taken seriously is not the only challenge for women in tech: for about one third of those surveyed, it is sexism. A huge 43% of participants say that there is a lack of female role models and slightly fewer see unequal pay as the greatest challenge.
This is not to say that the future faces of managers in more technical fields aren’t changing. The national initiative Komm mach MINT, which encourages and supports young women interested in mathematics, computer science, science and technology, has reported that there is an increasing number of women embarking on technical degrees and participating in STEM-related industries. However, the rate of this progress is extremely slow. Kim Morgan-Maier, Executive Search Manager at GID, states, “by working in an Executive Search company it is our responsibility to support those women but also to make the managers of companies aware of the need of diversity.”
Advantages for companies
Why should eliminating gender stereotyping and increasing gender diversity in leadership matter to companies?
The non-profit organization 2020 Women on Boards lists four key advantages:
- Diversity of Thought
- Stakeholder Representation
- Competitive Advantage
- Availability of Essential Skills
The competitive advantage that diversity in leadership brings to the table is also corroborated by a study, conducted by BCG’s Rocío Lorenzo, management consultant and diversity researcher, and TUM. The study found that there is a direct correlation between diversity in leadership and innovation – i.e. the more diverse a company, the higher turnover of innovation revenue and vice versa. For companies involved in STEM, innovation is a hot topic. Therefore, if STEM companies were to increase diversity in their teams, they would reap the benefits. This is just one short example of the advantages of gender diversity in leadership.
The role of Executive Search
What is Executive Search’s role in bringing about gender diversity?
In order to answer this question, gender diversity in Glasford International Germany’s own projects was analysed. The results show that there has been little development in increasing gender diversity in our own projects. The lack of qualified women in the talent pool certainly affects GID’s diversity statistics. The responsibility to develop and train women to management level must with lie with companies themselves.
Although the overall rate of increasing gender diversity is slow, attitudes are changing. A study, conducted by Invenias in partnership with MIX Diversity Developers, targeted executive search professionals to determine the effect of ‘diversity as a buzzword’ on their working practices and business strategies. The results found that over two thirds of the 300 respondents have identified D&I being ‘highly important’ to their clients. This reflects the changing attitudes towards gender diversity in industry and bolsters the hope that the momentum will carry on towards affirmative change.
It is therefore our role and responsibility to be proactive to support industries in the drive to improve equality in management positions.
Overall, the changes that are being seen provides an affirmation that gender equality in leadership positions can become a reality. The progress of this change, however, is still slow. Therefore, affirmative action must be taken in industries and supported by Executive Search in order to assure the realisation of this reality.
Author: Olivia Stainton, Glasford International Deutschland Research & Analytics