How can employers improve gender diversity in leadership positions?

'It's like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing'

How can employers improve gender diversity in leadership positions?

The least effective method of improving gender diversity in leadership positions and across a workplace are company-mandated policies, according to research by Hays.

Indeed, just 20% of 160 New Zealanders polled said company-mandated policies alone lead to real gender diversity progress.

Moreover, 23% said individual actions, such as challenging stereotypes or calling out bias, are more effective.

However, the majority of those surveyed – 57%– said it takes both for genuine gender diversity progress to be made.

In response to the findings. Adam Shapley, Managing Director of Hays in New Zealand, said “it’s like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing”.

“To make real gender diversity progress, you need every piece of the puzzle put in its correct place,” said Shapley.

“For instance, you need to start with an organisational culture that supports and celebrates diversity and inclusion and where people feel they can call out bias and challenge stereotypes without fear of retribution.”

Shapely added that rather than looking the other way, people need to know they can safely speak up when they see unconscious bias in the workplace.

“Added to this, you need leaders who understand and champion the business benefits of diversity and inclusion and celebrate any D&I successes,” he said.

“Leadership training should address any lack of diversity in a particular area and equal opportunities for progression for all must be available.

“You need diverse role models within the organisation so women – and employees from all underrepresented groups – see that leadership positions and career advancement is accessible.”

According to Shapley, organisations must source talent from the widest pool, aim to mitigate bias throughout the talent selection process and diversify their interview panels.

“Organisations can also consider the use of shortlist or workforce targets to ensure that hiring managers consider a diverse shortlist of candidates for each job vacancy,” he said.

“While the use of targets is divisive and can be viewed as a tokenistic measure, so long as they are supported by a foundation of diversity and inclusion values, and are measured and tracked effectively, they can help to deliver sustainable change.”

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