“He who fails to plan, plans to fail”, an age-old adage that has guided individuals and companies to success still rings true in the fight against gender imbalance in the workplace.
Regulatory requirements do their bid in combating gender imbalance in senior management positions, but it is only when companies are exposed to the true benefits of gender diversity that the balance will materialise. The finance sector has shown great results in embracing gender diversity – in South Africa, the mining and finance sectors boast the most female participation in senior positions than in other sectors. CFOs and their team leaders have an opportunity to level the scale by using available data within the organisation and also through their “top table” positions.
The ACCA report, gender diversity to boost business performance, highlights four things that CFOs and their team leaders can do in order to tilt the scale of gender diversity:
- ESTABLISH THE BUSINESS CASE
Incorporate increased shareholder value (eg through increased sales achieved by reaching a wider customer base), wider stakeholder value (including greater employee satisfaction) and a strengthened global value chain.
Include the downside risks of poor diversity (such as lost business, poor decision making or regulatory costs).
Tailor your business case to the needs and interests of other senior executives to achieve maximum buy-in.
- SET TARGETS AND KPIS
Set challenging targets for diversity: 40% of senior roles to be filled by women, for example.
Analyse financial and other data to establish links between diversity and performance.
Identify both hard (eg gender headcounts) and soft (eg employee satisfaction) diversity measures.
- MANAGE DIVERSITY
Establish systems, processes and a culture that enable the expression of differing viewpoints.
Provide training in how to work effectively in diverse groups.
Set out clear progression criteria based on performance and potential.
Establish sound governance around diversity actions, for example, by including diversity KPIs in management reporting packs.
Set realistic expectations for diversity initiatives: ‘quick wins’ are unlikely.
- BE TRANSPARENT
Report internally on diversity targets and measure performance against them.
Meet investor and regulator needs by reporting diversity information externally.
The lack of commitment to diversity by companies is highlighted as a barrier in the ACCA report. If CFOs and their team leaders would take steps such as the ones listed above, the issue of gender diversity in the workplace, and in senior positions, will be achieved much sooner than 2095 as predicted by some research.