As we commemorate International Women’s Day, we shine a spotlight on gender diversity and on a gender-balanced workplace. Where I work, when we talk about a ‘balanced workplace,’ we consider gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, and age. I’m proud to say we’re wholly committed to having a balanced workplace for all our employees. But I’m also going to be frank: while I’m proud of our progress, that doesn’t mean we’ve got it all figured out.
When we think about our role as a corporate citizen in bringing about the change International Women’s Day seeks, we need to look at where we’ve progressed and where we still have work to do.
For example, my organization saw a 52 percent improvement in women group managers across the company from 2017 to 2018. It’s fair to say we’ve made strides, but I know we can continue to improve our own numbers.
How will we continue in this endeavor? It’s not easy to break with long-standing norms, but we believe there are three pillars to affecting sustainable change in gender balanced workplaces: commitment to transparency, female (and diverse) leadership and a supportive company culture.
1. A Commitment to Transparency
More than ever, people demand transparency from organizations in both the private and public sectors. Transparency is more than a trend. It’s a requirement of doing business in the modern age, and a tool for organizations to improve employee morale and relations through an equal and balanced workplace.
We know transparency-inspired-trust is part of building a better future for our employees and is ultimately a key way to increase average tenure.
Within our walls, we strive to inspire and encourage trust with our employees. We know maintaining the trust of our employees impacts their satisfaction, engagement and motivation, which in turn has a direct correlation with the satisfaction of our own customers.
If we look at prime benchmarks like the most recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we know the workforce in the IT sector is 21.9 percent women. Looking at the proportion of women in our global workforce, our percentage of women improved from 26 percent in 2017 to 33 percent in 2018.
We derive inspiration from operations like our Nordics team, where we have 46 percent women. And last year IFS in Sri Lanka secured 41 percent of new hires as women.
2. Female Leadership
Providing for a gender balanced workplace is the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. According to McKinsey & Company, organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15 percent and those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 35 percent.
In a 2017 study by investor firm Morgan Stanley, the research pointed to a positive relationship between equity returns and gender composition of the employee base. Specifically, companies which ranked in the top third in terms of female leadership performed (on average) at least 2 percent better than the bottom two-thirds. The same study also noted that, over a 6-year period, companies with more gender diversity tended to have a higher level of forward one-year return-on-equity.
IFS has seen real transformation in the past 12 months, including an increase of women in management roles. A senior executive team that once included one female, now has five female leaders; over 40 percent of the executive management team. In 2018, our license revenues increase 23 percent year over year, more than 3 times the ERP industry average growth. I’m convinced that our mission to build a truly diverse team, both in background and in expertise, showed in our results.
I also think it’s important to call out that, yes, we are proud to demonstrate progress in the gender diversity of its management and other employee bases. But we do not appoint leaders based on gender alone. Excellence doesn’t distinguish between genders. Rather, it recognizes talent and work ethic. We operate in this way to empower all employees with leadership from the best and brightest in the industry.
3. Support Equal Opportunities for All in the Workplace
To be sustainable, the creation of a balanced workplace must be about more than social media-worthy optics. To last, a balanced workplace must be underwritten by a company culture that insists on inclusion, acceptance and the recognition that diversity offers better viewpoints and fosters productivity.
So, in honor of International Women’s Day, I was inspired to revitalize the IFS Global Equal Opportunities Statement and I’m proud to share what we stand for: Our company culture and our people are the things that differentiate us from our competitors. IFS recognizes that fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce fuels our innovation and connects us closer to our customers and the communities we serve.
Needless to say, we’ll continue to make inclusion and equality a company-wide priority and reality. I hope you’ll join me in this charge today and every day.
About Jane Keith
Jane Keith is the chief people and culture officer at IFS, a global technology solutions and services organization with employees across the world.
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