Unless organisations harness the talents of their entire team, they put themselves at risk of delayed growth and difficulty in sustaining longevity.
What better time to think about women in business than following the last two months in which we have seen not only three awards events in the UK that celebrate the ‘power’ of women, but also the widely recognised International Women’s Day.
In each case, these occasions have showcased female role models, empowered or inspirational women or the organisations that maximise their potential.
Despite women continuing to make great strides in industry, the fact remains that they still make up only 16 percent of executive committee members across the FTSE 350, according to research carried out last year.
Tellingly, the same report also found that the 169 FTSE 350 companies with at least one woman on their executive committee had a better return on capital than those with none — by a margin of 5.6 percentage points on average. So, who’s missing out?
Unless organisations are harnessing the talents of their entire team, male and female, they are putting themselves at risk of delayed growth and difficulty in sustaining a long-term future.
The most successful firms are those that nurture original, innovative thinking and encourage ideas to be put forward no matter how diverse.
Taking a fresh approach to innovation methods may also be the key to encouraging women to enter and remain in what have traditionally been male-dominated industries.
The most obvious are the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sectors, where there have been many calls to drive a more inclusive culture.
Women account for only 14.4 per cent of STEM occupations in the UK, according to the STEM Workforce 2015 survey, and many of them are leaving the field entirely before they reach their mid-thirties.
Innovations from establishing non-gendered environments in schools around STEM subjects and mid-career mentoring through to reintegration programmes for women following maternity leave are being encouraged and in some cases established.
Another approach is for companies in those sectors to look at their own workforce and ask them what they think would attract women and encourage them to remain and climb the STEM career path.
Their ideas, regardless of their level in the company, or their gender, could highlight the issues that are a deterrent and uncover observations that would lead to improved inclusiveness and a more advanced, gender-balanced way of thinking.
One way to start communicating with employees is to create an idea generation scheme. Whilst sometimes these are outsourced, increasingly companies are turning to software platforms that deliver a structure to capture, evaluate, prioritise and select ideas.
Staff can be incentivised to get involved by initiating rewards and recognition processes or by setting up high visibility programmes that are truly engaging. The most important aspect of this is to make employees feel that their opinions and their suggestions are noticed and valued.
The clarion cry of International Women’s Day this year was to call on the masses or call on yourself to help forge a better working world.
It could actually be the cry for any business too, because there is no more powerful way to start innovating and break through established routines, stereotypes and barriers, than to call on the army that every company has at its disposal— its workforce, both male and female.
On 29 June First Women will honour and recognise pioneering British women whose achievements are opening opportunities for others. The First Women Awards is a distinguished programme that celebrates exceptional business women and senior-level professionals. Do you know any woman who fits this criteria? Nominate them for an award now.
About the author
Rosemarie Diegnan is the chief strategy and product officer at Wazoku.