Enthusiasm ‘plateaus’ for helping women into workplace

Enthusiasm ‘plateaus’ for helping women into workplace

Organisations are experiencing ‘gender fatigue’ when it comes to implementing gender diversity in the workplace, a leading HR expert has claimed.

Carol Kulik, research professor of Human Resource Management at the University of South Australia Business School, told a breakfast briefing for HR professionals yesterday that despite a sense of urgency from external pressures for organisations to implement gender diversity, the opposite is happening and progress may have plateaued.

It is getting hard to generate enthusiasm in organisations with regard to gender diversity and many businesses are experiencing gender fatigue,” she said. “It is hard to keep gender diversity issues on the boil and that’s a shame.

Prof Kulik was speaking at a briefing organised by the Human Resources Research Centre (HRRC) at the Cork University Business School (CUBS) at UCC, to coincide with the CUBS-hosted Irish Academy of Management Conference.

HRRC’s Ronan Carbery said organisations with women in senior management roles have higher sales and higher levels of creativity and innovation.

However, Prof Kulik said that, despite policies that should have eased the problem of gender balance, progress may be plateauing, and that visible increases in gender diversity at the top may be masking deeper, systemic, gender inequality.

“The question today in Ireland is not whether women can or should work — the question is whether the work women do is valued as much as the work that men do and whether women’s work is as likely as men’s to lead to senior management roles,” she said.

In Australia, Prof Kulik explained, women account for 28% of the representation on company boards while the figure in Ireland is 16% — which had been the rate in Australia four years ago. Research also shows when there are fewer females on company boards, the gender pay gap in organisations was much greater by up to 50%.

David Stanton, minister of state at the Department of Justice and Equality, told the briefing he has seen a culture change in how business is done in Leinster House following an increase in the number of female TDs and senators.

It is much more common for mixed groups of female and male politicians to sit down together to discuss issues and to work collaboratively to devise solutions,” he said.

“Our priorities have broadened too, to accommodate the interests of women as well as men.”

However, Mr Keating said the Constitution still refers to the State recognising a woman’s life is played out in the home.

“In addition, over a third of women in the Irish workforce have considered leaving or left their professional positions due to opportunity inequalities in their company,” he said.

“Gender parity is not just the right thing to do; as we have seen today it also makes business sense. Organisations that have females in senior management roles have higher sales, and higher levels of creativity and innovation.”

The conference was one of two in Cork in recent days that could boost the local economy by €1.75m.

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