The conversation about gender equality has been pushed to the forefront in recent years, sparking positive changes across multiple industries and igniting greater awareness about gender bias. But despite these improvements, huge gaps remain. A McKinsey study titled “Covid-19 and gender equality” showed that women were more vulnerable to Covid-19 economic effects, with female job loss rates about 1.8 times higher than male job rates globally. Additionally, female jobs were more at risk than male ones due to the disproportionate representation of women in sectors negatively affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
However, we know that better gender balance in organisations makes good business sense. Companies that have gender diversity are 21% more likely to have above-average financial returns, according to market research company Forrester. Keeping in mind the known economic benefits and the potential to drive innovative growth opportunities from both a social and economic standpoint, striving for gender balance is a clear necessity.
In an annual study produced by the World Bank titled “Women, Business and the Law 2021”, the gender inequality amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic is explored looking at eight key pillars. The pillars are mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pension. The report analyses laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunities in 190 countries and shows promising results.
Results show that despite the difficulties of the global pandemic, many economies have made gender equality a priority. The results are reassuring with every region surveyed improving its average score.
It’s encouraging to see that South Africa achieved an overall score of 88.1 where a score of 100 means that women are on equal standing with men across the areas measured. This compares favourably with the global average of 76.5. It’s also interesting to note that South Africa has been selected by the Women, Business and Law team to participate in research into the motivations for legal reforms that countries have undertaken over the past 50 years.
At Dell Technologies we have accountable goals: 2030 Progress Made Real.
Dell Technologies’ 2030 Progress Made Real report is built on ‘Advancing Sustainability’, ‘Cultivating Inclusion’ and ‘Transforming Lives’. As part of our Progress Made Real plan to drive societal change by the year 2030, we have set ambitious measurement targets for gender representation, pledging that by 2030 50% of our global workforce and 40% of our global people leaders will be those who identify as female. Also, by 2030 our goal is to ensure that 95% of employees receive training on crucial topics such as unconscious biases, harassment, microaggressions and privilege.
Beyond our own internal workforce, we are aiming to ensure that within the next decade, 50% of the beneficiaries of our philanthropic programming are women, girls, those who identify as being female and underrepresented groups.
Workforce: Growing female workforce talent to contribute to socio-economic growth in the long term is key.
Once women have completed their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, they should be able to enter the workforce without bias or exclusion and this needs to be ensured through equitable recruitment. As women and minorities continue to enter the workforce, they are facing several barriers driven by unconscious bias. For instance, businesses that hire for ‘team fit’ may think they are building a cohesive company culture, but in fact, they are only making themselves less innovative and more homogenous. From exclusionary language in job postings to culturally prescribed notions of what ‘male’ and ‘female’ positions entail, unconscious bias works in subtle ways — and it carries a heavy price tag.
Is it the challenge of returning to work?
The gender problem persists the higher we go up the seniority funnel, where women returning to work after taking leave for childcare tend to drop out of the workforce and too often, do not return. Gaps in their CVs of anywhere between three and 10 years makes rehiring after a work hiatus a significant challenge, especially in the technology sector which is often disrupted by huge advances.
Corporations are often too risk-averse to hire someone without specific experience, no matter their background. But leaders and employees can change this pattern. Companies can also partner with organisations and social enterprises that offer training programmes and support women in getting back into the workforce. Apart from improving the male-to-female ratio, these partnerships expand companies’ access to a huge and valuable talent pool, especially for industries that so often face talent shortages.
Once women have entered into the workforce in the technology field they should be empowered to apply their skills and grow. This can be done through mentorship and internal development programmes. Dell Technologies opens doors through initiatives like Dell Career Re-Start, which is a sustainable re-entry programme focused on bringing educated and successful professional women (from STEM and non-STEM backgrounds) back into the workforce. And there’s also our Diversity Leadership Accelerator Programme that ensures women at every stage in their careers can build their tech and business acumen – whether they are re-entering the workforce after taking time away or looking to take on a management role.
Gender parity is not a zero-sum game, where one group wins and the other loses. While South Africa has made many significant advances to drive gender equality through laws and regulations, there is still more to be done. Organisations need to recognise the crucial role they play in bringing about change. It’s a journey and if we work together, we can help transform the region’s gender parity landscape for the better.