Employers need to think about diversity in the workplace to not only attract the best talent, but to keep the talent they already have.
Unlocking the female potential remains an uphill challenge for organizations around the world. Studies show that the proportion of female employees decreases with seniority in two-thirds of organizations. Globally, women earn 24 percent less than men, suffer from higher rates of unemployment, and face higher risks of vulnerable employment — work with no formal arrangement that is characterized by low pay, low productivity, and the absence of social protection.
These figures, while depressing, are not without their irony. Companies with women on their boards outperformed all-male boards by 26 percent over a six-year period according to research by Credit Suisse, demonstrating that a woman in leadership can provide tangible benefits for her organization. Other studies have shown that organizations with diverse and inclusive cultures are 45 percent more likely to experience growth than their homogeneous cousins, and have employees who go the extra mile and are less likely to leave.
Unfortunately, building gender diversity into the workforce is not as simple as playing the numbers game. There is a concern that quotas, whether mandatory or good faith, could hamper equality as there would be a perception that women are hired because of their gender and not on merit. The conversation is not just about women, either. Other stigmatized groups include the elderly, minorities, youth, people with disabilities, and the long-term unemployed.
So what is the recipe for inclusive growth? We can identify three elements:
Agency is the arrangement of choice for turning available work into jobs. Responding to a survey, 62 percent of companies said that if agency work were not an available option, they would not create new jobs. Most would find a solution internally, leaving many vulnerable groups out in the cold.
The International Labor Organization reports that over 60 percent of workers work without a formal employment contract, the so-called shadow economy. The challenge is to bring those people into a better form of work — one characterized by security and decent pay as well as much-needed access to social security, training and employment rights.
Agency work enhances labor participation for vulnerable groups by providing a diversity of contractual arrangements that complement traditional, open-ended contracts, especially for women who typically must work around their family commitments. In the Netherlands, for example, 38 percent of agency workers belong to a vulnerable group; in Finland, 66 percent of agency workers are women.
No one is suggesting that agency work will solve all of our diversity and inclusion problems, but it is certainly part of the solution. So let's push to get our workers out of the shadow economy and help businesses, through diversity, boost their bottom line!