In the last decade, major strides have been made. Women are working more and longer and have become economically independent. The new generation is more open to equal opportunities and treatment in the labour market. There is a more equal representation at all levels and an inclusive culture in the workplace for women. Yet, there is still quite some work that needs to be done to reach true equality.
Gender diversity in the workplace is good for business
There are fairly few scientific studies that show hard evidence that proves that gender diversity in the workplace indeed generates economic and social value. Nevertheless, there are various (international) research results that point in this direction. For example, research by McKinsey & Company shows that there is a positive relationship between gender-diverse leadership and financial performance. This research was conducted in fifteen countries, among more than a thousand companies, and yielded the following insights:
- Companies with the highest gender diversity in leadership teams were 33% more likely to improve financial performance and make profits than the national average in their industry.
- The more women in leadership teams, the higher the chance of companies performing better.
- Companies with more than 30% women in leadership teams outperform companies with 10-30% women, which in turn outperform companies with little to no women in leadership teams.
- There is a substantial performance difference of 48% between the most and least gender-diverse companies.
Since McKinsey published their research ‘Why Diversity Matters’ in 2015, the positive correlation between gender diversity and business results has only grown stronger in their follow-up studies. Scientific research among the hundred biggest listed companies in the United Kingdom gives a similar image: Companies with women in the boardroom perform financially than companies who have not. Moreover, the effect appears to be greater with three or more women at the top than with two or fewer.
The prejudices about women: What’s the deal?
Treaties and legislation state that women in all their diversity are entitled to equal opportunities and rights in the labour market. Nevertheless, practice shows that this is insufficient. Unconscious prejudices or gender stereotypes about women and work often get in the way of giving women the opportunity for a career. They influence not only the views of others. It influences women’s self-image.
- Women should be nice, not assertive.
- If women were suitable for high positions, they would have them.
- Women are less competent. Therefore, we pay more attention to their mistakes than their successes.
- Once a woman has a child, she is less dedicated to her work.
- We are attracted to people who are similar to ourselves. Thus, men are more likely to hire men than women.
Gender bias in imagery and language
This is called a linguistic gender bias. Examples include the addition of “feminine” labels to nouns or feminine conjugations of words such as teacher or artist. Another example is the default use of ‘he’ as a pronoun in texts where ’they’ or ’them’ could also be used. But also in more unconscious ways, stereotypes recur in language use. Ultimately, gender bias in language leads to a process of othering, labelling a person or social group as different and different from the norm. The norm here is men. Women are distanced by processes of othering and do not belong to the in-group. Moreover, these processes are amplified when a person deviates from norms on multiple identities, such as being a black lesbian woman. Another problem with othering is that the implicit norm that causes the problem is often not questioned.
Gender inequality in vacancies
Sia Partners is a next-generation next management consulting firm. In 2020, Sia Partners used a gender-coded gender tool to analyse gender stereotypical words in vacancies in the Netherlands. For this purpose, Sia Partners analysed vacancy texts from 18 different sectors and 350 companies. The results were compared to a follow-up study six months later. For the second monitor, 13,900 vacancies were assessed. The results show that the industrial and automotive sectors still score high on masculine language use. This is improving. 56% of the sectors surveyed now use more gender-neutral than masculine language. Sectors appear to be increasingly aware of word usage that excludes people.
How are companies working toward a culture shift?
In organizations where everything is about working as hard as possible and competition and where there is little room for making mistakes, women feel less at home. A culture change is needed in these organizations anyway: a different image of the ideal employee with few care obligations who is available 24/7 must be created. Attitudes about the division of labour/care and about men/women need to change. Employers play an important role in this culture change. They are increasingly making room for an inclusive work culture.
Genderdiversiteit op de werkvloer, wat valt er te winnen? https://www.movisie.nl/artikel/genderdiversiteit-werkvloer-wat-valt-er-te-winnen
Stéréotypes sexistes dans la vie professionnelle : comment les combattre: https://blog.adatechschool.fr/stereotypes-sexistes-vie-professionnelle/
Stereotypen en de ongelijkheid tussen mannen en vrouwen op de werkvloer
Seksuele intimidate: https://www.mensenrechten.nl/themas/gendergelijkheid/seksuele-intimidatie