Last year Germany became the latest—and the most economically powerful—nation to require greater gender diversity in the corporate boardroom. Germany’s law requires a minimum of 30% of boardroom seats be filled by women, matching the requirements of Belgium and The Netherlands. Norway, Spain, France, and Iceland all require 40% of their boardroom seats be filled by women.
With the passage of these laws gender diversity has become more than just the right thing to do—it has become the law. However, promoting gender diversity is more than a mandate.
It’s the smart thing to do, for economies and companies.
Recent research by McKinsey & Company shows that women employed at their full potential would create an additional $12 trillion in global growth, demonstrating that increased female participation in the economy represents a tremendous source of future wealth.
And, at the company level recent research has shown that female executives score high in a wide range of leadership traits, including ones that are more typically associated with male managers and executives.
Placing women in the boardroom and in your management ranks is not just about meeting quotas. It’s about creating high performing companies.
And here is what you can do to help ensure your company achieves its gender diversity goals.
1. Approach recruiting new female candidates with thoughtfulness and expertise.
Over the last few years, how many new hires and promotions have been female? How much has your company invested in developing existing female leaders? Are existing female managers evaluated in an equitable way?
You need to know the answers to these questions.
Before you recruit the next wave of female leaders and executives, make sure you have an objective and thorough understanding of your current corporate environment, and how it is succeeding (and/or failing) with its existing female workforce.
Additionally, evaluating the experience of non-traditional candidates takes specific expertise. Recruiters and executive search consultants know how to identify, recruit, and evaluate candidates who have an atypical background. For example, an executive search consultant can help better identify skills gained during an extended break from the workforce to focus on childcare.
2. Create a leadership development program for female managers, executives, and board members
It’s a good idea to create leadership programs when developing all of your future corporate leaders, but female executives face unique, specific challenges. Creating a leadership development program that focuses on nontraditional employees is an important part of developing your organization’s future leaders—and improving your bottom line
Too often new managers are thrown into a new situation with little guidance and little to no investment in developing their leadership skills. Approaching executive onboarding in that fashion is always a bad idea, but it is an even worse idea for executives who, for whatever reason, come from a different background than a “typical” executive.
Creating a formal leadership development program for future executives who come from nontraditional backgrounds is not just the right thing to do.
It’s good business.
3. Create a supportive and flexible environment for female executives and managers
Though it is becoming less of an imbalance, in Europe (and across the world) women—even women who are participating in the workforce—are still responsible for the bulk of childcare.
Women are often still the primary caretaker, decision maker, and parent to children.
A workplace without flexibility is a workplace that forces women—and for that matter any parent—to choose between their children and their career. This choice forces many female executives to take a break from the workforce that they may not have taken had they had a more flexible employer.
That lack of flexibility could be part of the reason why, according to a survey we recently conducted, 61% of female managers are “definitely open” to leaving for another opportunity.
That level of dissatisfaction eventually leads to a loss of talent, brainpower, and experience that could have been avoided. Further, as a recruiter who places female executives, I can tell you that a growing number of candidates (of both genders) increasingly emphasize workplace flexibility as a reason for accepting a position.
Creating a healthy, supportive, flexible environment is essential to meeting the gender-based quotas an increasing number of countries are requiring.
If you create that type of environment, meeting a quota will be no problem.
If you approach gender balance thoughtfully and proactively, you’ll have more candidates than you could ever hire.
Pierre Collowald is a Senior Partner at Robertson Associates, a European Executive Search and Leadership Solutions boutique. Pierre is working out of Brussels, Paris and Zurich. firstname.lastname@example.org