Inequality in the business world requires gender-intelligent organisations to recognise the value both men and women bring to the corporate sector. Ericsson focused precisely on this challenge by increasing the number of women at senior-level positions globally to 35 percent in 2016. The organisation aims for 30 percent of all employees to be female by 2020, including leaders and executives.
During the Connected Women panel at the recently concluded CiscoConnect South Africa, leaders from the public and private sector deliberated on how to fast track gender empowerment in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. There was a common understanding that men need to be included in conversations on gender parity and organisations need to make tangible transformation commitments.
The biggest obstacle to gender equality in the workplace is incorporating men in the discussion and framework. We cannot continue having conversations on equality without male representation. Gender parity conversation needs the “whole person” – both women and men.
Gender inequality is particularly significant in sub-Saharan Africa. A report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) states that gender inequality is costing the region, on average, $US95 billion a year, jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth. The report further states that 61 percent of working African women still face economic exclusion as their jobs are underpaid and undervalued.
Ensuring women empowerment requires efforts from leadership in the public and private sector to recognise the importance of striving for gender equality at senior levels. It was interesting to hear from the South African Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, share his view on gender equality. “When we empower women, we empower a nation. A nation that is empowered is guaranteed to prosper. This is your opportunity to show that Africa can be an important player in the ICT sector,” he said.
Our report on Gender Parity in ICT shows that a tendency of gender parity exists in developed countries where ICT solutions and internet access are widely available and affordable.
Women have caught up with men in terms of education and are becoming increasingly empowered in the corporate world. Studies show that companies with a high representation of women board members significantly outperformed those with no female directors. With these findings, it is obvious that more diverse companies are at a significant advantage.
It is our role as business leaders to continue encouraging people to go beyond stereotypes and recognise the contributions that each individual, male or female, can make to the workplace. A recent study by PwC cited that 83 percent of women seek careers with businesses that demonstrate strong records of diversity and equality. Business reputation is a key definer for overall success among key stakeholders, including employees, investors and future talent pool.
Women have different talents, attributes and bring varying skills to the public and private sector. Without diversity in the workplace it will be difficult for business to adapt, innovate and progress. Without female representation within the workplace, organisations are losing out on half of the talent pool available and the unique attributes that female workers can introduce, from entry-level positions through to the boardroom.
(The author is the Vice President and Head of Strategy, Marketing and Communications, Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa)
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