Oct 4

Implementing Gender Diversity

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

It is gender diversity that becomes one of the most critical drivers for business success in the Western world. This world shaped by a structural framework of aging societies and a desperate lack of technical experts and leaders. Once Western – mostly male – managers understand the issue and make it a top priority on their strategic agenda the question of how to implement this topic still needs an answer.

At the end of the recession in the German automotive sector and at the dawn of new economic growth therein, I can tell out of my own experience as director human resources in an engineering company what it means to face an empty and overpriced labor market for highly skilled and experienced engineers. About ninety percent of our staff are male technical academics. May be a half out of ten applications is sent by a woman although we are putting it explicitly on our recruiting ads that we highly appreciate applications by women.

And at this point it comes quite clear that it is not only “the male top management” who is in charge but at least two more decision taking target groups: the governments and women themselves.

Women need to take decision for a technical career and / or a leadership career. They need to have the stamina to pursue these career ambitions even during the demands of the own family planning and motherhood. What is necessary here that is an attitude of self-responsibility, self-confidence, and courage, – - and even women who bring these prerequisites along will face a tough structural framework of social and cultural beliefs as well as processes and procedures within their own companies. Yet, we are not even talking about the male dominated code of conduct and success patterns in almost all companies which is mainly shaped by motivators like power and prestige – values which do not correspond with most motivational landscapes of leading women. They tend to focus on community, team and the cause itself.

In order to foster the development of the human capital women bring along, Western governments need to prepare the ground for women to find an interest and a true perspective in technical education. Former socialist states executed technical education for women by threat of force. Democracies and their educational systems have to find a way to unlash this potential by conviction and autonomous decision in order to break cultural role patterns.

Other political aspects are the adjustment of family policies to the crucial needs of working women. When I am listing to my team staff which obstacles they have to manage when it comes to child care or the timetable organization of day-care centers I simply see a gap in between what politicians preach and what is executed on the base where it really matters.

Where governments and their bureaucracy fail it is to entrepreneurs and managers as well as their lobbies behind to raise their voice in order to widen the awareness of developing female leaders and experts if they want to prevail in their market positions in the middle and long term future.

Also within the companies awareness can be increased: for example by implementing gender diversity KPIs keeping an eye on equal pay, turnover rate, recruiting, development, engagement, satisfaction and so forth.

Other measures to be taken by forward looking and caring companies are the transition to flexible working hours, home office and part time jobs. Furthermore, the offer of flexible careers plans for women who want to take maternity leave is crucial in order to retain and develop top talent. The departments of human resources need to answer their female employees the question, what kind of active support and planning happens before, during and after the maternity break?

That means, companies have to learn to integrate the career planning with the family planning of their male and female employees if they want to retain top talent.

That means, companies have to learn to integrate the career planning with the family planning of their male and female employees if they want to retain top talent.

This necessarily brings organizational change along in order to adjust to these requirements with leadership development and administrative human resources processes. If management does not put gender diversity on the strategic agenda it might become a hard nut to crack for supportive human resources managers and women who really want to make a career as leader or technical expert.

In most of the cases, as it can be seen, the framework for the support of women with high potential in technical or managerial leadership is shaped by a lot of challenges. For many of them, above all, it becomes a quest for their identity as well: often women are forced to apply male behavioral patterns and value systems in order to be successful in business. And here another dilemma awaits them: if they are, they are mostly accused of tough- and straightforwardness which is not considered as “women-like”.

How can women manage their career in a male mainstream business culture?

The answer comes by defining one´s own identity. Forward looking and caring companies offer women, who are on a career path, mentoring, coaching and training if they really want to develop these potentials with sustainability. Women who care for themselves should look for female networks and role models they appreciate and whose path they want to follow.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 4th, 2010 at 20:27 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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