Approaches to Leveraging Female Talent
The Report’s findings confirm that targeting female talent is a strategy that is particularly characteristic of those companies that prioritize future workforce planning and change management and that are confident that they are on the right track in their approach to preparing for impending disruptive change.
In order to leverage the benefits of gender diversity, companies need to take a holistic approach, starting at the top. Actively managing talent rather than passive commitment has been shown to lead to better returns. While some of the transformations in corporate practices and public policies will entail adaptation in the short term by families, companies and the public sector, in the long term, the subsequent expansion of opportunities for women has the potential to transform the economies, societies and demographics of countries as a whole.
It is important to emphasize that these interventions do not work as a checklist of actions that will each independently produce results. Flexibility in the workplace is, alone, not enough to guarantee improving gender equality. It must be accompanied by a holistic set of priorities and long-term commitments, and by a deep understanding of the corporate, industry, and cultural context, as well as the organizational culture and local policy environment.
The World Economic Forum’s online Repository of Successful Practices for Gender Parity pools information on the practices that have been successfully used in leading companies worldwide to close gender gaps at the company level, as well as along the companies’ supply chain and surrounding communities.34 The repository suggests six dimensions around which to focus an organization’s gender parity efforts.
- Measurement and target setting: Achievable, relevant recruitment and retention targets at all levels, with an embedded accountability mechanism, are critical. Developing a disaggregated database can help to evaluate the causes of gender imbalances and track progress. Transparent salary bands to track and address male and female salary gaps are additional useful tools to understand the status quo in organizations.
- Mentorship and training: Companies have benefitted from programmes that promote guidelines on the value of diversity as an underlying culture of the organization, and impart knowledge on how to manage a more diverse workforce and how to attract, retain and promote female talent. These training programmes, for both men and women, can be relevant for shaping an environment within the broader employee base for women to successfully lead. In addition, many companies have formal mentoring schemes for women seeking leadership positions, although they also find that high-potential women lack the sponsorship and tailored training needed to move into the executive ranks. A repositioning of the human resources function beyond a focus on systems and administration to talent development and training can help address specific roadblocks for women, in addition to better overall talent management.
- Awareness and accountability: The focus of many companies on building awareness indicates that the case for change still needs to be built to make progress. Accountability of the senior management and transparency of career paths and opportunities have proven to be effective practices. Ensuring that management policies, processes, systems and tools do not harbour gender-based discrimination, as well as enhancing the understanding of unconscious biases can, also make inclusive leadership more tangible.
- Work environment and work-life balance: Women are often the primary caregiver for both children and the elderly in most countries. Ensuring smooth on- and off-ramping and appropriate childcare options, and developing guidelines on implementation of work-life balance policies and mentoring for women going through a transition are important levers to ensure a sustained career progression towards management. For those companies that already offer parental leave, flexible working hours and other work-life balance programmes, the next steps lie in accelerating their use and acceptance by female and male employees.
- Leadership and company commitment: Visible leadership by the chief executive and top management on supporting women in management has proven to be one of the most important levers for progress in achieving gender diversity in a corporate context. This includes concrete and symbolic actions by top management and, in many cases, establishment of a position or department to lead diversity efforts. Regular communications by senior management on gender equality have been found to be critical.
- Responsibility beyond the office: Many companies have leveraged the opportunity to exercise external influence along the value chain, including diversity training for suppliers, distributors and partners and training to support women-owned businesses in the organization’s value chain. External influence can also be exercised by ensuring gender neutrality in advertising, engaging girls and young women to display possible career paths and developing partnerships with gender parity-focused civil society and public sector initiatives.
Beyond individual company practices and challenges, it is clear that there are specific and common gender gap challenges within industries. This is thus an area ripe for intra-industry collaboration and for improved public-private collaboration, to balance both public and business interest. Such collaborations and partnerships are currently relatively rare but there are emerging experiments that indicate the greater efficiency for business and improved societal outcomes are possible through such approaches.
The moral case for gender equality has, in the most part, been won. The business and economic case is also increasingly understood. The Fourth Industrial Revolution now presents an unprecedented opportunity to place women’s equal participation in the workplace at the heart of preparations for the shifts to come.
Box 3: Anticipating the Future of Jobs: Human Capital and Gender Parity in the Oil and Gas Industry
In many industries there is a growing scope for collaboration rather than competition to address talent challenges. For example, several human capital challenges in the Oil and Gas sector are directly linked to the cyclical nature of the industry and others, primarily those that affect long-term horizons, are associated with a shortage of qualified employees, a lack of experienced mid-tenure employees, and the need to foster technological innovation. Over this long-term context, the Oil and Gas industry broadly faces obstacles in recruiting work-ready technical engineers and in developing, attracting and retaining female talent. In order to continue to serve the world’s growing energy needs while improving opportunities for youth in emerging markets and for women, leaders of the Oil and Gas community aim to address these challenges collectively.
Given the long-term talent needs and skills gaps in the industry, the Forum’s industry project in this space aims to develop demand-driven criteria for educational institutions working with leading companies in the sector. The first objective is to produce an industry-endorsed standard curriculum that aims at bridging the gap in training of petroleum engineers across geographies. The curriculum focuses on engineering fundamental knowledge such as mathematics and geology but also non-engineering skills such as project management, finance and communication. In order to prioritize certain regions or countries, the Future of Jobs project’s insights will be used to identify critical skills gaps based on industry needs. The World Economic Forum will then play a facilitator role bringing together the industry and relevant universities and ministries in order to move forward the common dialogue.
The Forum’s analysis illustrates that the Oil and Gas industry, despite on-going efforts in the field of diversity and inclusion, continues to miss out on the diversity dividend, with participation of women in the workforce still lagging behind other major industries. In order to increase efforts to tackle these persistent gender gaps along the Oil and Gas talent pipeline, major players from the industry are also coming together to collectively address contextual and industry-specific factors contributing to these gaps. Alongside a straightforward desire from many in the sector to create a more diverse workforce, interviews with Oil and Gas executives suggest they also believe that taking advantage of this huge potential talent pool is a critical business objective. Skills gaps and the looming retirement of experienced engineers and technical talent currently present in the Oil and Gas workforce mean that companies need increasingly to look elsewhere to find the talent and knowledge they require.
The group looked specifically at data on gender gaps at junior, middle, senior, board and CEO levels. A Call to Action is currently being developed that aims to state the group’s vision and demonstrate the practices major players’ will undertake to advance gender parity. The declaration includes a set of guiding principles that will underpin the industry’s efforts on gender parity, such as: ensuring visible leadership on gender parity and company commitment at all levels; promoting gender sensitive recruitment, retention and promotion policies and setting challenging but achievable goals for gender diversity. This Call to Action will also serve as a platform to help Oil and Gas business leaders, their companies, owners and shareholders around the world address the factors contributing to the gender gap. Members of the Oil and Gas community also encourage companies to share best practices, creating an opportunity to learn from and build upon successful interventions for the benefit of the entire industry. This pilot project points to collaborative mechanisms that can be applied across other industries, in partnership with governments and educational institutions.