Why gender diversity is not about men versus women.

By Britt Staal

When we talk about gender diversity we often talk about men versus women, male versus female. Why? Because this is visible, measurable and reportable. So often, this is what organizations focus on when working towards a more gender diverse company. And essentially, there is nothing wrong with that. But keep in mind that not all men are the same. And not all women are the same. Frankly, everyone is different from one another. Women are different from other women and men from other men.

So that’s why at The xGen, we often use gender as a starting point. Besides approaching gender diversity in terms of ‘male’ or ‘female’, we mostly consider ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ qualities. Men can have feminine qualities and skills. And vice versa. The key to gender diversity is having a healthy, balanced mix of masculine and feminine qualities in all layers of the organization. Only in this way, you can truly create a gender balanced workforce.

And as most are already aware, a gender balanced workforce is good for business. Why? It generates more sales revenue. Companies with high levels of gender diversity bring in over 14 times more sales revenue on average than those with low levels of gender diversity. Gender diversity also leads to more innovation, higher employee satisfaction and faster problem solving. And the list goes on.

So, where to start? And how to make it work?

Let’s start with the good news: a shift from masculine to feminine is already happening in the workplace. Qualities like decisiveness, result-focus, independence and competition no longer have the upper hand. Qualities like empathy, process-focus, connection and collaboration are increasingly valued, also in leaders. And more room starts to exist for part-time working, caring responsibilities, working from home and job sharing. Things that used to be a taboo.

But work cultures still being very masculine, often means that employees must fit into masculine norms, standards and expectations. So, we still have a lot of work to do. Start with creating more gender-balanced workforces. But mostly with creating open, sustainable and wholehearted work environments that allow feminine skills and qualities to flourish. Encourage employees to not conform to the norm and to own, embrace and show their unique qualities, also the feminine ones. Create an inclusive environment where differences are valued and respected. Where work and jobs will fit modern needs like flexible and part-time working. Only this way we can make gender diversity work: by making work, work. For everyone.

Then lastly… believe! Research amongst 1.069 leading firms across 35 countries and 24 industries has shown that gender diversity relates to more productive companies, only in contexts where there is a widespread cultural belief that gender diversity is important. In other words, beliefs about gender diversity create a self-fulfilling cycle. Countries, industries and organizations that view gender diversity as important benefit from it. Those that don’t, don’t.

So, don’t wait with creating a gender diverse and inclusive workplace. Because younger generations (Y and Z) are increasingly becoming a voice within the corporate sector. They are the future workforce, the future leaders. The majority (70%) wants to work for an organization that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion. And they demand an honest organization that treats its employees with respect and fights for equality and sustainability. They are unapologetic about having lives and responsibilities outside work and demand a workplace that supports this. Start adapting. This is the only way to stay competitive, to stay relevant and to survive.

Read the post on our LinkedIn page.

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