Why better gender representation leads to better business outcomes

The gender pay gap is arguably the most talked-about topic when it comes to gender inequality

For women looking for a new job, gender diversity in the company’s leadership is a good gauge of gender representation throughout the organization, says Aditi Kohli, the senior vice-president for the Asia Pacific at GWI. She notes people are now going beyond traditional considerations such as pay and title when they are considering their next role.

Conversations around gender equality have evolved in recent years, from merely acknowledging how few women hold leadership positions, to highlighting the impact that women have when it comes to influencing business. As we emerge from the pandemic, this is becoming more important than ever as organizations are looking to pick up hiring and make sure they have the best people to act on the lessons learned during Covid-19.

The last couple of years has been fascinating on how gender representation and diversity, and the conversations around them, have changed in the corporate world.

Research shows that FTSE 350 companies that have female membership of more than 33% have a profit margin over 10 times greater than those without. However, we still see many companies lagging in terms of making sure they are developing women into leadership roles. According to research conducted by GWI in APAC, women are 24% less likely than men to say they hold executive positions. But with 40% of professionals in APAC being women, it’s important, then, that companies recognize the tangible benefits that opening doors for women at the highest levels can bring.

Cultivating gender diversity in the workplace

And there are many advantages to hiring women. Having gender equality in the workplace can lead to better business outcomes. Having more female leadership can bring a whole range of benefits to a business, not least increasing innovation, de-risking performance, and providing much better monitoring and oversight ability. At the same time, having diverse perspectives in corporate leadership helps reduce the impact of deeply-rooted and often unconscious bias, which can affect operational friction.

Companies committed to diversity initiatives can improve performance, hire better talent, and retain workers better compared to organizations that do not prioritize inclusivity.

From starting in sales and partnerships to eventually building and leading teams across various brands in Asia, I have stayed motivated to inspire other women to climb up the corporate ladder and focus on gender representation in leadership as one of my priorities. Growing up, the lack of women in C-suite roles was evident to me.

In 2021, only 8.1% of chief executives in the Fortune 500 are women. Resounding calls have been made for greater gender equality. Now, it is up to organizations to take action - creating better policies and opportunities for women. When women become leaders, they bring a new set of skills and offer unique perspectives that can drive effective solutions. Their positions also serve as an inspiration to young girls, ensuring the next generation continues to carry the torch.

Supporting women through educational programs

When the pandemic hit, there was a lot of conversation around how COVID-19 has negatively impacted women and their careers, especially as women continue to juggle their traditional roles of housekeeping and childcare while working remotely at the same time. While many policies were in place to help families, the welfare of women in the workplace did not get much attention. GWI’s research in APAC in Q3 2021 illustrates this, showing a 9% drop in the number of female business professionals who regarded their work-life balance as excellent/good, compared to Q1 2019. This number seems small, however, the trend of remote/hybrid working shows little signs of ebbing. Unless this is addressed, the declining work-life balance faced by women will not improve soon.

A key trend from the pandemic has been ‘The Great Resignation’. More and more people are considering their career options and what they want from their work. This presents an opportunity for companies to relook how they meet employee needs and bolster current initiatives for women and strengthen gender diversity.

GWI research has also found that job satisfaction among female business professionals decreased from 62% in Q2 2020 to 59% in Q3 2021, at the height of the pandemic. But there are many ways that companies can improve. In addition to paid maternity leave, organizations can help women through assistance with childcare and tuition reimbursement, as well as through specialized programs, to allow women to upskill and achieve their career goals.

Negotiating and climbing up the ladder

The gender pay gap is arguably the most talked-about topic when it comes to gender inequality. In a 2020 report by the minister of manpower in Singapore, women reportedly earned 6% less than their male counterparts, despite being in the same industry and of the same age and educational background. Speaking out and negotiating for a higher salary can be even more daunting in male-dominated industries.

For women looking for a new job, gender diversity in the company’s leadership is a good gauge of gender representation throughout the organization. People are now going beyond traditional considerations such as pay and title when they are considering their next role. They are now more interested in the experience of being an employee at a prospective new company. As a result, it has become fundamental that brands keep up with the times and provide equal opportunities for all.

Aditi Kohli is senior vice-president for the Asia Pacific at GWI