There is something fundamentally wrong in the way ’Gender Diversity’ is being defined.

The other day, I interviewed a young, driven HR manager from a fairly well known organisation. In our discussion on diversity, she proudly showcased change in ratios of women recruited from campuses. These were an outcome of a pure ‘number focus’ … She may well have been from the sales team with the month end being the campus day zero!

Let’s look at how ‘Gender Diversity’ is being defined today. Wikipedia describes it as “Gender diversity is equitable or fair representation between genders. Gender diversity most commonly refers to an equitable ratio of men and women, but may also include non-binary gender categories.” The concept focuses on the numeric aspect of the “balance” that every organization is striving to achieve today.

Yet, the problem lies beyond numbers. Many popular studies suggest that the percentage of women rising to senior management in most organizations decline drastically. A study by World Economic Forum claims that 29% of working women in Asia drop out of work between junior and mid-level positions.

Then, why the focus on the numbers recruited? All it does is, gets organisations into a vicious circle of targeted hiring to fill the gaps created by and to plan for attrition.

And attrition comes at a cost- which is not just financial. The repercussions are lasting.

Hence, a number driven approach is, in my opinion is incomplete. A systematic approach is needed to achieve gender diversity within the organizations.

The focus needs to be towards creating an ecosystem that understands and supports diversity. It is a way of working that is inclusive and supports the needs of a diverse set of employees. The ecosystem transcends across  the vision, to the policies and processes, to leadership and to the infrastructure. And to build a sustainable ecosystem, It is critical to understand the root cause for the imbalance and the solutioning becomes simpler with greater and sustainable impact.

As perfectly put by Theresa J. Whitmarsh, Executive Director of the Washington State Investment Board at the annual meeting of World Economic Forum- “If you exclude 50% of the talent pool, it’s no wonder you find yourself in a war for talent.”

Author: Sonica Aron

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