Gender Equality on a Collision Course
How much influence do companies have on society? If we accept that our world has been shaped by the industrial revolution right through to the technological innovation of companies such as Google and Apple, then the answer is a huge amount.
But advancements in technology can also be a double-edged sword for companies. Access to social media means that society no longer waits for change to be imposed. Rather society expects change to happen quicker than it ever has done in the past and in a way that is sustainable and ethical. This is particularly so for society’s expectations on gender equality, which presents a problem for large companies with a culture that is resistant or slow to respond to change.
But not to accept the impact of change that comes with an increased focus on gender equality risks putting companies on a collision course with society as a whole. As more women enter the workforce, there is likely to be an increase in demand for companies to accommodate social needs. These needs include such the flexibility to look after children or ageing parents, particularly as women are still in charge of family life. At the same time, access to the Internet has modified our way of working by putting the emphasis on quality of work achieved, rather than the necessity to work at a specific location.
These demands are likely to increase, particularly from the younger generation entering the workforce – Generation Y. Both men and women of Generation Y expect more flexibility in the workplace from the outset; young mothers and fathers want to see their children and achieve a better work/life balance. We know this from our latest survey on gender equality*. More importantly those able to work in a more flexible environment are proving that by not always being in the office yet achieving what is expected of them can work.
So what can companies do to avoid this collision course? Perhaps we have to accept that at this point in time companies are not as agile as they would like to be or should be in fulfilling society’s demand for change, but recognise that change is needed and facilitate the mechanisms to enable it to happen.
Secondly, while it is important for company leaders to back the need for change, it is no longer enough. Processes need to be put in place that ensures gender equality is recognised throughout the corporate chain. This could be practical training on how to deal with the issue or included as part of an appraisal system for managers and leaders.
We all need to do more to promote gender equality and ensure that change happens to benefit companies and society alike – no matter how long it takes.
How we play our part
Mazars is a signatory at group level to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which are a set of 7 Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. They are the result of collaboration between the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the United Nations Global Compact. Mazars signed as a group in December 2013 and is actively encouraging its country representatives and member firms to sign the principles at a local level.
Further reading on this topic:
Creating a Think Tank Environment for Gender Equality
What Does Diversity Mean to You?
Muriel de Saint Sauveur. Global Diversity Director. Mazars Group