Womenomics – A business case for women !!!

“Did You Know -???

Women represent 60% of university graduates in Europe and North America.

Women make 80% of consumer goods purchasing decisions in the US ??

Companies with more women in leadership have a 35% higher return on equity

—Can companies afford to ignore this new, 21st century reality?”

‘Womenomics’ is the new buzz word is corporate circles today all over North America if a recent survey done by the CEO of ‘Waking Up to Womenomics – Avivah Wittenberg- Cox is concerned. In fact, ‘The Economist’ make a fantastic statement that we should forget harping on the astronomical growth of emerging markets like India, China and ofcourse, the Internet. It states that in today’s society economic growth is driven by women.

To second that point, Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger, and Mary C. Meaney of McKinsey Quarterly in their September 2008 issue stated that the male-female gender gap isn’t just an image or Corporate Branding problem…it can have real tangible implications for the company’s performance. In their words, today there is a strong business case for women and I couldn’t agree more with this argument.

Women here within the Corporate Circles of North America and other developed countries have made significant strides in carving a niche for themselves in recent times.

Working as an HR professional, I am aware that there are companies who have moved successfully to increase the hiring, retention, and promotion of female executives. One such company that is applauded for its phenomenal work in retaining & motivating female employees is the global consulting behemoth – Deloitte. The consulting behemoth admirably came to terms with its need to provide a more equitable culture for the career advancement of women nearly 10 years ago, and this decision and this commitment has produced numerous benefits for its female professionals. Deloitte has been applauded for their HR policies that aren’t inadvertently biased against women or part-time workers  rather encourage them by initiating mentoring and networking forums, to establish (and consistently monitor at a senior level) targets for diversity, and to find ways of creating a better work–life balance for their workforce. Changes like these have a price, but there are business advantages to making them – today, 14 percent of Deloitte’s partners and directors are women, the highest percentage among the Big Five Consulting firms.

Apart from Deloitte, there are other companies like Ernst & Young, GE, Goldman Sachs, Time Warner who have been accredited across professional circles as a key attractor for this valuable segment of the talent pool. While they all have some form of telecommuting, flexi-time, and job sharing that attracts skill women to the workforce, what sets them apart from their contemporaries is the fact that they all believe in the fact that women can give them the competitive edge.

However, there is a darker side to this story. On one hand there are companies like Deloitte, GE, Ernst & Young who are doing some phenomenal work in this area, research done by Columbia University in collaboration with the University of Maryland indicates that in the United States, less than a third of the leading 1,500 companies had even a single woman among their top executives in 2006.  In fact, if we were to look closely at the senior management in higher echelons of most Companies in Corporate America, the percentage of women is abysmal.

While this seems unpalatable to most of us women and more importantly HR practitioners, it would be folly to ignore this truth completely. Hence the next question seems appropriate.

Why do women matter in the workforce or what is he business case for attracting and retaining women ?

While the term ‘ War for Talent’ sounds like a cliche, there is an acute shortage of skills and knowledge which would only worsen  with time.The need of the hour is more talent to enter the workforce to fill the shortages.

According to McKinsey research, in the United States, the upcoming retirement of the baby boomers will probably mean that companies are going to lose large numbers of senior-level employees in a short period of time; nearly one-fifth of the working-age population (16 and older) of the United States will be at least 65 by 2016.  As HR, we are always saddled with the glaring mismatches between training and employment. This gap between employees joining and being fully trained to optimally do their job can attribute to the shortages. Today even as we speak, we are aware that male-dominated sectors with a dearth of workers include engineering and IT —yet 70 percent of women with science, engineering, or technology qualifications are not working in these fields.

Apart from filling up this talent, a healthy gender diversity ratio would improve productivity as a result of improved employee motivation and efficiency while attracting top talent in the industry. McKinsey Research shows that companies with three or more women on their senior-management teams scored higher on all nine organizational criteria than did companies with no senior-level women.

Attracting & retaining women in the workplace is by no means for the faint-hearted as it is fraught with its share of challenges and difficulties. However, as illustrated in this blog post, most companies reap tangible benefits for instance; a larger talent pool and stronger financial performance—which suggests that making gender diversity a significant business goal is well worth the investment of both time, effort and money.

References:

1. Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard-Hoellinger, and Mary C. Meaney – Business case for Women. The McKinsey Quarterly, September 2008.

2. Cristian L. Deszõ and David Gaddis Ross, “‘Girl Power’: Female participation in top management and firm performance,” working paper, December 2007.

3. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland, Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of Our Next Economic Revolution, Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, 2008

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