Management / Jenk’s eye view: Unleashing the potential of women in the workplace benefits us all

Jenk’s eye view: Unleashing the potential of women in the workplace benefits us all

Many studies reveal that companies with female board members and management outperform their all-male equivalents. McKinsey & Co went as far as to estimate that return on equity and operating profit were on average 50 per cent higher for such companies. There are many anecdotal stories attesting to the innate differences between gender behaviours between Mars and Venus, with their effects on entrepreneurship, risk-taking, decision-making styles and decisiveness.

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Yet there are plenty of examples that show women are as capable, if not more so than their male equivalents, of creating, developing and restructuring an enterprise – regardless of form, ownership or size. The bottom line remains that equality is good for all.

Yet the search for equality remains a drawn out process. For example equal pay, regardless of sex, is still not established practice in the workplace. Pay differences also mask discrimination for hiring and advancement. Recent legislative and social practices with regard to parental leave and child rearing should remove any obstacles. The main challenge remains one of attitude.

So why the resistance? It makes little business sense. Partly it can be explained by legacy attitudes of incumbents combined with long-held biases and fears common with any matter requiring change. It should be remembered that woman in Britain only received the vote (and then only those over 30 who met minimum property qualifications) in 1918. It was as late as 1971 in Switzerland.

In the Nordic markets, especially Sweden, successive governments in recent years have been encouraging reverse discrimination and the use of quotas. A series of official and unofficial measures has seen the increase of woman filling CEO and equivalent roles from 10 per cent to 40 per cent over the last 13 years. The battle has now moved into the boardroom, where woman represent less than 25 per cent of board membership and even fewer as the chairperson.

Unleashing the full potential of women in the workplace is something that benefits all of us. Gender equality in the workplace should be championed and nurtured. It is just good business – for women as well as men.

 

Justin Jenk is a business professional with a successful career as a manager, adviser, investor and board member. He can be found at www.justinjenk.se

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