Creating Best Workplace for Women: Agenda for Gender Diversity
The subject of women and gender has long been discussed as an interesting but somewhat minor issue in the business world. It has been variously seen as a diversity issue, a Human Resource issue and an ethical debate about equality and equity. The growing economic, political and social consequences of women’s changing roles have not always been very clear to the people currently in power. Yet the issue of gender in the 21st century represents a major political, economic and social discontinuity. I think of it as one of the 2 W’s that is changing the lives of countries, companies and couples all over the planet:
Web: The technological revolution, the rise of the internet and the instantaneous inter-connection of people around the globe.
Women: The massive arrival of women into the economy and the resulting shift in gender roles and power, and the growth of the sum total of human intelligence.
Getting these 2 W’s right is the key to unlocking huge opportunities and avoiding some of the biggest risks we have yet faced as a species. And getting them right will take the energy, understanding and commitment of both halves of the human population—the Man and Woman.
The question is how to do this…..
This can be done on the lobbying for the right policy on national level.
There is an urgent need of overhauling the mindset of men dominated society and norms. Traditionally, we are very much into maternity leave. There are good companies who are supporting a lot on this front. But can we think differently here?
Shift from maternity leave to paternity leave
Does child care is the responsibility of woman only? Why not shift from maternity leave concept to paternity leave? This concept is well adapted in Europe. Child needs both mother and father and it is the responsibility of both to raise the child as a good citizen. The decision of taking the leave should be with parent and not only for the woman. Six months maternity leave can be converted with paternity leave. After the delivery of the child father and mother can share the leave. This will not only create the opportunities to women but men will also have the choice to invest their time with the child. The problem today is the whole responsibility is with the employer and the government only enforces the legislation. Government is planning to subside the leave with certain limits which is good.
In Alfa Laval, we have taken a small step towards this with introduction of paternity leave and creche facility not only for women but also the men.
Strong policies at workplace
Organizations need to play the major role to create the friendly policies for women and if required extend this to their men workforce. Extending the policies to men also creates positive environment is families where they get the flexibility to share responsibilities with their spouses. Policies can be distributed as under:
Environment & facilitation:
- POSH: Effective execution of Prevention of Sexual Harassment Policy which is mandatory as per the law is still a big issue. Anti-Sexual Harassment Committees are prepared on the paper but not effective. Committee members are either very junior or not properly trained. Employees are not sensitised. Government made it as a part of Model Standing Orders but enforcement is very poor. We, at Alfa Laval has made it a priority and senior woman member of Management Team chairs the Committee. Further every employee joined has to undergo the sensitization programme.
- Health, Safety and Environment: Every organization declared their HSE policy. Sometimes it is only for audit purpose. Organizations needs to come out defining the clear guidelines when it comes to safety and health issues of women. Simple measures like tracking devises and CCTVs in cars and buses will help to minimise safety issues. Another measure is regular health check ups for all employees but few special tests for women. We have introduced yearly medical check up for all employees and some necessary tests for women employees.
- Creche facilities: I have seen companies discussing a lot about this with new guidelines introduced by the government, but few organizations are finding loopholes and looking this as compliance exercise. As earlier explained we have introduced this for male employees also.
- Flexi work & work from home policy: It is a business decision and such policies always have business context, but with technology and modern IT tools, working from home and flexible working hours are possible even in manufacturing industries (except shop floor jobs). This really is a amazing policy where employees are willing to work more, improves productivity and have the flexibility to focus some family issues. We have already introduced this in Alfa Laval and very much appreciated by our employees.
- Dedicated & focused efforts in hiring are really required. We have an open recruitment policy where any employee can apply to open position with Alfa Laval. We encouraged all including women employees to apply higher level jobs. Further it also necessary to educate managers recognizing their unconscious biases about women.
- While hiring, focus on hiring women employees is increasing. There are lot of challenges not from organizations side, but women are not opting for manufacturing and engineering careers. Hope this will change in future.
It is also important that women should feel included in the organizations. This needs conscious efforts. This can be done in three ways:
- Supporting in higher education: If women employees wish to grow in her career, she needs some motivation. Education assistance schemes can play important roles here.
- Mentor & Coach: Breaking the glass ceiling is a big challenge for women employees. Sometimes they are stuck, and they need help. Coaching & mentoring programmes and helping them to realise their inner strength helps them to think that growth is possible even in challenging situations.
- Appointing them on special projects, elevating them on larger & global projects will help them to develop their leadership skills, cultural, business acumen.
- This can be done by introducing the policy where manager is held responsible for development his team including woman employees. After all, it is the responsibility of manager to create the positive, friendly, open and free atmosphere in the team. When team members feel free when they are heard and give opportunities without any biases.