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New Ways To Drive Gender Balance At Workplaces

The dearth of female representation in leadership roles has propelled a growing number of organizations to display more commitment towards achieving gender parity by promoting more women into the higher echelons

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Women constitute 39 percent of the world’s working population. Yet, the ratio of women in top management positions is disproportionately low, across the globe. The dearth of female representation in leadership roles has propelled a growing number of organizations to display more commitment towards achieving gender parity by promoting more women into the higher echelons. However, this is not adequate to ensure proper gender parity in a larger perspective. The need is to aggressively recruit more women at the ground level so that the entire pipeline attains the desired balance. 

Gender balance has been at the core of Sodexo for a long time. Providing equal opportunities for induction, growth, assessment, and rewards to all our employees, irrespective of gender, we have been on a journey to make gender parity a reality. As our extensive study on gender balance over a period of 5 years shows, the performance of any organization is directly proportional to the ratio of men and women working in it – the more balanced the ratio, the more consistent is the performance. And with diversity and inclusion being our innate growth strategies, we make unfailing progress to inch closer to the magical ratio every day.

Gender balance is one of the top priorities in our Better Tomorrow 2025 vision. Currently, women have a 50 percent representation on the board, 32 percent in senior leadership positions, 46 percent in middle management and site management positions. To ensure a more gender-balanced organization that can truly leverage the complementary skills of men and women, we have some strong HR policies in line.

Equal Slate and Intuitive Candidate Dashboard – We maintain a pool of deserving candidates and suggestions from this pool are put forth to fill up the vacancies as and when they arise. It is mandatory that at least 25 percent of these suggested candidates are women. Managers need to present a strong case for not selecting a woman for the post. Most positions have an equal number of Men and Women candidates which is part of our Equal Slate Process of Workforce Planning.

Blind screening – Progressively, across the globe, profiles of candidates are submitted for review without mention of name and gender so that there are absolute transparency and absence of prejudice during selection. Candidates are recruited strictly based on merit only. 

Continuous engagement with clients – Since most Sodexo employees function at client sites, we maintain a continuous engagement with clients to synergistically promote gender balance. While some clients are positively inclined towards having women in the team, a few are cautious and wary about ensuring the safety of women due to challenges of location and time. We iron out the fears. At the same time, we introduce bold and determined women to roles that have been heretofore classified as ‘men only’ – one such example is a plumbing position at our client site, in a leading IT&ITeS, set up; she is held in high regard for her proficiency and professionalism.  

Role modeling – At Sodexo, we are mindful about the fact that women have been late entrants to the job sector. They may not be able to rival men when years of experience are concerned. So, this factor alone should not disqualify them when being considered for senior management positions. Keeping experience lower on the selection criteria gives us healthier and more competitive choices. For example, we have ex-Defence personnel working in an Operations profile in the Pune region. Her contribution is exemplary even though her experience is not extensive.

Gender neutral roles – We have made over 8000 roles gender neutral. We don’t have any job position that reeks of gender bias. For example, we let go of ‘pantry boy’ and supplemented with a name that had no reference to gender. It was a calculated move to change prevailing mindsets that any particular role was unsuited for women.

However, this momentum towards a perfect gender balance can only be maintained when there is increased participation from the women workforce. The obstacles and barriers that keep women away need to be evaluated and the challenges need to be addressed. 

One important way of gaining participation is by creating awareness among women and helping them gain the right kind of experience. Keeping this in mind, Sodexo is all set to celebrate this Women’s day by implementing #SheWorks for a Better Tomorrow. This involves Job Shadowing, where women from outside the ecosystem will observe Sodexo employees as they perform their activities on that day. A variety of roles have been identified that can expose women to new career ideas, train in key positions and develop important networking contacts. 

The benefits of #SheWorks are manifold. The women delegates experience the work profile and roles at Sodexo, creating opportunities and a pipeline. Organizations gain more manpower and improved productivity at low operational costs. And eventually, the progress of women brings about progress in the entire ecosystem, proving the truth of the IWD theme for this year – Balance is for the Better.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Pradeep Chavda

The author is Director of Human Resources, Sodexo Onsite Services India.

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