Gender Diversity: just a buzzword?

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