The Business Case for Gender Diversity



According to 2016 statistics by the Australian Government, women constitute a total of 46.2% of all employees; however, when looking at the number of employees who are in full-time positions, only 36.7% are women.  Women, unsurprisingly, comprise a total of 71.6% of all part-time workers.

Given the growing awareness of societal inequalities, consumers are raising their ethical standards and are more critical than ever towards organisations. In addition to businesses showcasing the services they offer, they must also reflect twenty-first century values in the way they operate.  At times, this can seem as though economic and practical functioning are at odds with achieving societal ideals.

However, are these ideals truly at odds?  Are organisations required to make a choice between equality and the bottom line?

Gender diversity is one of many examples where there is a strong business case for gender diversity in the workplace.

So how can gender diversity continue to benefit your organisation?

Let’s begin with a global view and consider how gender diversity influences the market in which your business operates within:

  • Workplace gender equality is associated with improved national productivity and economic growth.  If businesses increased total national female employment by 6%, this would boost Australia’s GDP by 11%. 
  • When companies increase the diversity of employees, the amount of people with disposable income expands.  This provides an opportunity for significant growth in new markets, where women are increasingly the consumers.  Businesses have the capacity to tap into these new markets.
… Zooming into your business now, what can you get within the walls of your organisation?

  • Gender diversity can lead to increased organisational performance.  In a study of 21,980 firms in 91 countries, having more females in top leadership positions was positively correlated with increased financial profitability.
  • Diversity in boards, including gender diversity, leads to better problem solving.  Improved problem solving can significantly impact how well a company can handle unexpected events or changes to the market.  This is increasingly relevant as technological developments and globalisation change how companies operate.
  • Creativity and innovation are also bonuses that arise from gender diversity in the workplace; especially in industries, companies or departments where novel solutions need to be generated.  By having a homogenous group, this limits the range of innovative ideas.  Creativity generated through diverse teams can help businesses surpass their competitors by going in directions that competitors have not yet considered.
  • Workplaces that foster gender diversity have improved retention, which prevents loss of specialist knowledge, increases productivity and reduces hiring costs.
  • Businesses also have a reduced risk of workplace discrimination cases when they have gender equality policies and strategies in place that address sex-based harassment and discrimination against employees.

… Gender diversity also affects the people in and out of your business. Here are just some of the benefits:

  • Gender diversity enhances organisational reputation.  Corporations with higher percentages of females on their board, were more likely to be named as one of the ‘100 best companies to work for’, and one of the most ethical organisations.
  • The Diversity Council Australia and the Society for Human Resource Management noted that gender diversity through inclusive culture and flexible workplaces can lead to an enhanced capacity for companies to attract high-quality candidates from a larger talent pool.  By attracting all genders to a role, you have considerably more available applicants. As of 2016, a greater proportion of women (64%) than men (61%) were engaged in formal studies.  This demonstrates that not only do employers have greater options when practicing equality, but these options are likely to be more skilled and educated. 

The importance of promoting gender diversity in the workplace is evident as shown from these benefits.  But while many managers may understand the importance of improving equality, it can often be difficult to accomplish.

A recent pamphlet, by VicHealth, provides a series of fantastic strategies to better achieve gender equity in the workplace.  They encourage organisations to shift towards a flexible mindset to adopt new strategies and procedures, which requires open-mindedness.  Having open-minded employees can help increase gender diversity, as well as, create an accepting workplace culture.  A diverse and inclusive culture can help create respectful relationships and benefit performance (as discussed below).  Workplaces that actively encourage diversity can potentially reduce interpersonal conflict at work that women are particularly prone to facing.

Below are some tips proposed by VicHealth to support gender equity in the workplace:

Build a supportive workplace culture

1) Involve workers.  Engage employees and give them opportunities to participate in events and initiatives, to help them understand the role they can play in shaping a positive environment and boosting gender equity.

2) Engage leaders.  Having visible role models and support from the top to implement initiatives is vital for driving and sustaining change.

3) Involve women and men.  Highlight women’s voices whilst considering the role of men in the issue of gender equity, to better understand the complexities of workplace gender imbalance.

Educate staff to understand and take actions to support gender equality

4) Staff training.  Provide purposeful training to enlighten workers on understanding the impacts of gender inequality, being a bystander, addressing unconscious bias and supporting colleagues who experience family violence.

5) Information sessions and events.  Holding events to promote equal rights can go a long way in demonstrating an organisational commitment to gender equality and can further engage the workforce.

6) Clear communication.  Ensuring clarity in communication channels is vital to spread a consistent message throughout the organisation.  Ensure language and examples are tailored to be accessible, and provide practice advice for employees to take away in their personal and professional lives.

Embed gender equity into organisational systems

7) Integrate gender equity into existing strategic plans, policies, and practices.  Focus on integration, multi-year commitments, and be cognizant of key processes, time frames and necessary consultation to have the capacity to promote gender equity.

8) Embed gender equity within Human Resources.  Ensure Human Resources are trained and equipped to support staff and issues surrounding gender equity and family violence.   

9) Establish supportive workplace structures.  Committees and working groups can act as a consultation mechanism to embed gender equity in an organisation.

The importance of equality in society cannot be overstated, and we have made some noticeable strides removing inequalities of the past.  When considering equality of opportunity and gender diversity within the workplace, it is clear businesses still have further to go.  Gender diversity must be achieved by not only increasing female employment to create gender-balanced workplaces, but also through ensuring this balance is maintained; even at the top tiers of business.  When this occurs, organisations are at a significant advantage through increased profitability, enhanced reputation, and improved recruitment and retention.  The next time you hire, consider these advantages and strive for diversity when selecting the best candidate.

To embody a supportive and diverse culture, open-mindedness is required from employees on all levels. Recruitment procedures can be lengthy and biased. With the use of a psychometric personality assessment, these procedures can fine tune and support the selection process to identify ideal candidates with open mindsets.

The Business Personality Reflections® is a personality questionnaire that measures business-related traits to assist in selection and personal development decisions.  Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be tailored to any organisation’s needs.  Below you’ll find more information about the Business Personality Reflections® Open-Mindedness scale.


Open-Mindedness

Being open-minded in the workplace can be understood as the readiness to consider a wide range of ideas or suggestions from other individuals, along with the willingness to accept the values within the organisation.  It indicates the degree to which an individual can challenge their own established values and ideals and, therefore, evaluate and understand the perspective of others.  As our society is diverse and workplaces are filled with many differing individuals and cultures, open-mindedness is vital in creating a cohesive environment for employees.

A sample item for the Open-Mindedness scale that you may see on the Business Personality Reflections® questionnaire could be:

‘I consider myself open-minded about other people's lifestyles’.

Substantial evidence has also shown that open-minded and diverse workplaces can have sizable performance advantages (Cox, Lobel and MacLeod, 1991; Cox and Blake, 1991). They attract and retain the best talent, due to the skills and abilities from women and minorities which open the organisation to a wider pool of employees.  This can give an organisation a competitive advantage and they may be better suited to reach a larger and more diverse clientele group (Mazur, 2010).  It has also been found that open minded and diverse workforces are better at problem solving and generating ideas, which is due to the multiple perspectives that are available.  In addition, they may demonstrate more organisational flexibility and be better at adapting to changes (Mazur, 2010).

Consider using the Business Personality Reflections® Open-Mindedness scale in your recruitment and development if:
  • Your organisation supports gender equality and equal opportunity.
  • You require employees with flexible mindsets that can work with any type of stakeholder.
  • Your organisation values a supportive, diverse and inclusive culture.

The future of work demands employees that are open-minded.  You can maximise your organisation’s potential by utilising the Business Personality Reflections® questionnaire.  If you would like to learn more about the Open-Mindedness scale or the Business Personality Reflections®, please simply enquire now for a free trial.