5 things that startups should do to encourage gender diversity

5 things that startups should do to encourage gender diversity

Workplace diversity can be of competitive advantage. Time and again research and surveys have proven that companies with diverse teams are better poised in decision-making and perform better across functions in the organisation. But bringing women into the boardroom has been a long-drawn challenge for corporates.  A majority of organisations have tried to implement measures aimed at increasing gender diversity among senior executives, but very few have achieved notable improvements.


In the startup landscape that is primarily dominated by men in leadership roles, it is heartening to see that women are coming forward and co-creating the startup landscape. It is encouraging to see that the divisions of technology, operations and finance are led by women who are skilled leaders and command domain expertise. When you open yourself up to considering a diverse team, you end up hiring the best people for the right roles. It would be great if the business results can link to equal representation of men and women in the team.


5 things that you should inculcate to ensure equal opportunity to men and women at workplace:


1.    Equal opportunity for all: Right mix of inclusion and equality makes good business sense. Since the Founders of most of the startups are well educated global individuals and have worked with organisations, they understand the need forfair amount of representation of women in leadership roles as well as other significant functions running across organization. A lot of women are setting-up enterprises and making a success of it. So it makes sense to provide women the necessary opportunity, mentoring, trust their decisions, align flexible policies wherever needed and see them gleam and shine. Set an example to stand apart and be recognized within the employer community too. 


2. Create an Ombudsman for independent grievance handling:  We know that financial institutions like Banks have Ombudsman to investigate the grievance/complaint of the customers against any anomaly. Similary, many large corporates like GE, Coca-Colahave a policy where they have appointed an Ombudsman from within the organization to look into grievances of the employees in fair and just manner. If the startups too can create a system where an employee can reach out to the designated person for necessary safeguards for protection of employees from reprisals or victimization, for whistle blowing and redressal in good faith. This will give confidence to the employee that unfair practices will be dealt with severely by the highest authority in the organization and act as a deterrent too.


3.Parity of income, opportunity and promotion: Companies world over are increasingly realizing that the roles and functions are independent of gender and if anyone has the requisite experience, drive and passion to perform, than it is unjust and unfair to hire and pay differentially just because of certain mindset or culture. According to Monster Salary Index (MSI) data from 2016, the current gender pay gap in India stands at 25%, where men earned a median gross hourly salary of Rs 345.8 against women who earned only Rs 259.8. The gap has narrowed by two percentage points from 27.2% in 2015 and is closer to the 24.1% in 2014.As a startup, since one is in the driving seat and can create culture of fair pay and equal treatment for all. This can have a significant positive impact on the business bottom line and sends out the right message to the team as well. The tradeoffcan be increase in loyalty, enthusiasm and transparency across length and breadth of the company. While this is a big agenda, any baby step can make a beginning.


4.Friendly and flexible HR policies: It is often thought that women intend to give-up their careers due to pressing personal issues or demanding work pressure. In reality that is not the case, most of the women intend to stay and make their mark. Since startups are high energy environment with tighter deadlines and quicker burn out ratio, the companies can frame policies to let people work out of home or anywhere they since everyone is connected all the time. Small yet effective policies like buddy program to help people re-join work after career break, short sabbaticals to pursue interest and passions, referral programs to recruit women employees, cross functional moves, paternity leaves  can make whole lot of difference.


5. Mentoring for all: Traditionally men have been groomed and mentored for senior level roles, now women are demanding the same to make a smooth transition. This indeed can be a head turner for startups to roll-out the mentorship program for women employees to help them achieve their full potential. Companies than identify the stalwarts in the team and assign a coach or a mentor to them to help the in their personal and professional, they can even identify a program from a renowned institute for a better skill enhancement since different sectors have different talent pipeline and eventually higher growth path.  


We have a B2B e-commerce start-up where women represent 30% of the leadership team and are designing means and ways to increase the number of employees across functions in the company. Building teams on equality is key aspect in being productive and in fact have a competitive edge in the market. It is heartening to see companies have started sensitising their teams on the need for inclusion of women across functions including leadership team, women are spearheading crucial functions like product development, engineering, design, finance and sales and proving their mettle in the role of their choice.  These are exciting times and startups are leading the road to showcase the change with more open and positive approach paving the way for new future.


[The article has been contributed by Founder & CEO of Moglix]


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