Women as the next smart business strategy

by Candice Silverstone of Deloitte Consulting

Women may well be the dominant source of economic growth in the near future – and organizations that are able to capitalize on the roles women play as economic actors will most likely have a competitive advantage as the world pulls out of the global recession. Deloitte research suggests that investment in women is the next source of substantial economic growth, for firms and countries, with direct correlations between increases in women in the workforce and increases in National GDP. In fact, a positive and often double-digit difference was found in productivity between those organizations with more women as leaders compared to those with less.

Fully integrating women into both the workplace and the marketplace can yield a significant return—what is termed the Gender Dividend. Maybe because great value derives not only from women as leaders, but also from the diversity of thought that women can help provide, as well as the use of a talent pool which, in many instances goes underutilised. There is a steady benefit that is earned by making wise, balanced investments in developing women as workers and potential leaders as well as understanding women as consumers and their impact on the economy and the bottom line. Done right, the Gender Dividend should be reflected in creating a better strategic position in terms of the broader socio-political environment; an ability to compete successfully in a global market; significant cost reductions in unwanted turnover; building a Talent Brand among female Talent; increased sales, expanded markets, increased innovation and improved recruitment and retention of a key talent segment.

Reaping the Gender Dividend, however, requires going well beyond achieving the numbers, and even eliminating the explicit discrimination that laws and policies have taken aim at over the past decades. It requires a concerted, strategic focus on how to fully integrate women’s experiences, perspectives, and voices into the fabric of an organization; as history has shown, this will not happen on its own. Instead, senior leaders must elevate women’s advancement to a strategic objective tied to their overall plan for growth—and having a business case is critical to getting started.

The Harsh Reality

Our clients increasingly recognise that in order to achieve sustainable economic, organizational, and consumer market growth, they must capitalize on historically untapped markets, and are demanding strategies and solutions to do so. However, the idea that most corporations have become gender-balanced or women-friendly is still a myth. Reports of progress in advancement, compensation and career satisfaction remain relatively bleak. Policies and procedures have often been changed but the problem lies in their application by managers, especially when they are under pressure. Despite an aging population and glaring skill shortages, leaders continue to overlook and underutilize women as a source of talent.

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