It’s been a big year for gender equality ― from the #MeToo movement to the broader recognition of just how far we need to go, to the tangible actions that are (finally) gaining momentum in workplaces.
Before we pat ourselves on the back for recognizing the problem, it’s important to understand that now is the time for the hard work of turning the desire to change into actual change.
Almost exactly a year ago, a group of committed business leaders created CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, to address workplace disparities. The group grew and grew and now includes more than 450 signatories, of which I am proudly one.
This group shares success stories and in so doing reveals the common denominators in approaches that work. A top takeaway is that talking about the need for change doesn’t make much of a difference. What does is when we hold ourselves accountable to concrete goals. In other words, what gets measured gets done.
In my own company’s case, we’ve seen how much measurement matters. Earlier this year, Sodexo completed a massive multi-year study of gender and team performance. The results were fascinating.
Leadership teams with gender parity ― that is a mix of both men and women of at least 40-60 percent ratios ― delivered better results on gross profit, brand image and client satisfaction. Perhaps more important, the performance of balanced teams was also higher for employee retention, employee engagement and employee safety.
Here’s a link to the full study. Some highlights:
Operating margins significantly increased among more gender-balanced teams than other teams.
Gender-balanced entities had an average client retention rate that was 9 percentage points higher than other entities.
Gender-balanced management reported an employee engagement rate that was 14 percentage points higher than other entities.
Gender-balanced entities saw the number of accidents decrease by 12 percentage points more than other entities.
Business case anyone?
We have also measured against set goals for parity. After years of prioritizing the issue, Sodexo’s global board is 50 percent female, its senior leadership is 32 percent female and 59 percent of all employees work on teams with gender-balanced management.
Still, we recognize there’s more to be done. We have a goal to reach 40 percent female senior leadership and have all employees work for gender-balanced management teams by 2025. Others may dismiss this approach as relying on quotas, but in fact, by pushing hard toward set goals ― and annually measuring our progress ― we have diversified our company outlook as well as our employee base.
Collectively, we have now witnessed some of the consequences of going too slow in diversifying our workplaces. We are acknowledging that our offices, whether in the corner or in the field, need to reflect our larger community.
Let’s keep up this momentum by embracing the notion that this movement has only just begun. It’s now time for the next steps. Let’s create our goals, apply our smarts and measure our progress.