Talenttalks.net hosted a free-to-register webinar on Thursday, 4 March 2021 in which a panel of experts discussed the steps businesses need to take to avoid undoing the progress made toward gender equality in the workplace, with a particular focus on women in leadership.
Facilitators: Thembela Njenga and Rikky Minyuku
Panel: Priyal Ramdass – Leadership Development, Benita Kolloori – Talent Engagement, Zani Mashinini – Implications for Business
If you missed it, watch the full webinar.
Being successful at building a more diverse and gender-equitable workplace requires an integrated and inclusive approach that also addresses cultural dynamics. This was one of the key takeaways from the panel discussion during the Talenttalks webinar facilitated by Rikki Minyuku and Thembela Njenga from WomaNiko Transforming Spaces on 4 March 2021.
On International Women’s Day, we recognize the contribution of women in the different spheres of life and in shaping a more equal world. After decades of gains in building more equal workplaces, there are now growing concerns that this progress may be undone because of lockdowns and other measures to address COVID-19.
Leadership and performance consultant Priyal Ramdass argued that there is both a human rights and business case that support the focus on gender equity: “There is a fundamental human right for everybody to want equality in life. There is also a very compelling business case and a growing body of research that shows a more equal workplace can boost productivity, profitability, support better decision making and drive innovation.”
But, while data shows that the number of women entering the workplace is on the increase, the number of women entering leadership layers in business does not correspond, despite years of investment by businesses.
HR Executive Zani Mashinini highlighted that having the right level of leadership and stakeholder commitment sets the tone and can greatly influence the success of initiatives: “One of the most important questions to ask is why an organization feels it’s important to invest in gender diversity.”
Mashinini also pointed out the need to take an integrated look at the cultural dynamics at play in organisations. “We can work at representation and hire more C suite executive females, but if we don’t look at things far more holistically, we end up with an environment and culture that is not receptive of them.”
Over the last year, we’ve witnessed powerful examples of female leadership on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, but we’ve also seen the spotlight being cast on the disproportionate burden that many women carry.
Ramdass added that organisation should take heed and learn from the experiences of employees during the last year in developing solutions that meet the needs of working parents and offer the flexibility that a younger generation of employees is also looking for.
Recognising that the impact of measures to address the pandemic has been significant on many women, talent engagement consultant Benita Kolloori highlighted the power of discernment as a tool to help rebalance the demands. “Viktor Frankl explains that between the stimulus and the response, there is a gap in which lies our power to choose. As we go through the day, we should use these small gaps to pause and ask important questions such as should I be doing this right now, is this right for me?”
Beyond personal agency, the panellists also highlighted the importance of sponsorship and networking. “As we talk about diversity and inclusion, it is important to include men in the conversation and get sponsorship from male leaders. And as women, we also need to learn to sponsor each other and network,” explained Mashinini.
“We really need an integrated leadership strategy that talks to what women need to do in terms of their own leadership, sponsorship and support for each other, but also how we invite men into the conversation to be advocates. It takes a village to raise an organization and different individuals need to come together for the greater good of not just one gender, but our work communities and society at large,” added Ramdass.
While the effects of the last year have forced many individuals to take a closer look at their work lives, professional aspirations and personal lives, Kolloori pointed out an interesting shift from a personal branding perspective. “We’re seeing a shift in personal branding, from object referral to self-referral – from candidates portraying themselves against their credentials and achievements to a personal brand that is the total of their experiences, failures, fears, anxieties, because they realize that that is what makes them who they are.”