The workplace is filled with different “gaps” that negatively impact women: pay gaps, diversity gaps, and the so-called ambition gap (which is sort of a myth, by the way — more on that later). All of these can make the workplace unpleasant for women, and companies have been scratching their heads as to how to solve these issues for… well not that long, TBH, but at least for the last handful of years. Now, new research has the key to increasing gender diversity at work. The big secret? Promote women.
If this seems like a “duh,” it’s because it kind of is, but the new research should help businesses get a grip on what they need to do to have a more gender-balanced workplace.
The research was conducted by BCG partner Claire Tracey, who interviewed top executives and HR officers at 15 of Britain’s most successful companies. She also surveyed 1,350 employees from these same companies, and found that each business was utilizing an average of 10 different “diversity interventions” to attract and retain women, but most of them weren’t working, the Financial Times reports.
Tracey discovered that the intervention best-liked by many chief executives was recruiting new women to the company. BUT — and here’s the twist — it turns out that JUST recruiting women doesn’t help companies diversify all that much. Instead, Tracey’s research found that the best way to get more women in a company is simply to promote and support the women who already work there.
Here’s what support would look like: including visible female role models, getting men involved in gender diversity conversations at work, and having defined diversity goals, according to the Financial Times.
Tracey’s research also uncovered a pretty significant gap between how well companies felt they were working to retain women and how women ACTUALLY felt they were being valued. According to the Financial Times, nearly 97 percent of the companies Tracey surveyed felt they were adequately committed to gender diversity, but only around 25 percent of women in these companies said they had benefited from their companies’ gender diversity initiatives.
This is where the need for specific and measurable goals comes in: If companies aren’t tracking diversity and quantifying the experience of their female employees, they don’t even have a target to aim for. Involving men in these discussions also helps them to see the ways that their companies are not, in fact, doing enough (or the right things) to support women.
Which brings us back to the ambition gap — or, the idea that women are less motivated to advance at work than men, mostly because of the demands of motherhood. Turns out that’s not true at all: BCG published research earlier this month that found women are just as ambitious as men (or MORE!) when they start their careers. See, especially under age 30. But after that, women DO become less motivated than their male counterparts… not because of motherhood, but because they feel less valued at work.
If companies are serious about gender diversity, they’re going to have to make their workplaces environments where women actually want to work, and where they know they can invest and grow their talents. This is why it’s so important to ramp up support of women in the workplace. Otherwise, there’s really not much hope for men and women to gain equal footing within companies, or for the women who are unhappy and feel unsupported at work.
Now that there’s solid research into what works (and what doesn’t) for companies that are genuinely dedicated to gender diversity, let’s hope the ball gets rolling ASAP.
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(Images via Emma McIntyre + Jemal Countess/Getty Images, GIPHY + MGM)