DIVERSITY IS PERSONAL

by Crina Ilie


It’s fascinating how easily we narrow our understanding on diversity based on race, age and gender parameters that are immediate and somehow clearly visible to us. Diversity is much more, though. From distinctions in religion, education, sexual orientation, personality type, and a variety of other factors, diversity comprises many things that may or may not be obvious when first meeting someone.

This is why I find the subject of promoting women on leadership roles perhaps more complex, intriguing and personal. I owe my very personal perspective partly to my role as a working mother and partly to my position of HR professional for a company with 66,000 employees spread across 24 countries. When I look around the floors of our European centers, where 75% of my colleagues are women, I see how the commitment to diversity plays out positively from a gender standpoint.

Going up in the organizational layers, that percentage begins to narrow. Still, women make up 33% of our senior staff overall. That’s an even more impressive figure when you consider that many of the countries where we operate have workforces that heavily skew men.

Genpact culture strongly encourages internal promotion and talent grooming of women, but then why does the percentage of women go down as you go up the ladder? The HART Consulting recent survey on 100 Romanian based organizations offers possible explanations. The survey analyzed gender stereotypes in Romanian leadership, testing three assertions:

1. Women have lower career motivation than men

2. Women do not have the needed traits and behaviors to be good leaders

3. Women are more oriented towards traditional roles (housewife, mother, etc.)

 

Results revealed:

• All people surveyed considered both women and men are equally career motivated

• Women’s working style was perceived as fundamentally different from men’s

• 55% of respondents strongly opposed the notion that women do not cope with crises

• 51% are totally against the statement that women are not competent leaders

• 60% of respondents are against the idea that women should take care of household

• Only 17% of respondents perceive raising children as a task for women only

Key conclusion: The traditional perception of women in the workforce is outdated in the context of current public opinion. From this, we can conclude that society and the workplace environment is no longer discriminatory towards women who want to pursue a leadership career. It seems that women are making their own personal choice when it comes to balancing career with private life. They are more reluctant to make the trade-offs in the quality of family life that taking a larger leadership role often requires them to make.

To cope with inadequate employer work/life balance policies and resources, women continue to adapt their work patterns by weighting their choices in favor of family. The strongest proof of this truth: European Commission statistics show that the employment rate of women decreases with the number of children, while the employment rate of men increases with the first and the second child.

In my case, I delayed motherhood until I felt confident enough that my professional skills would allow me to take a year off to care for my daughter and still return to work and have a fulfilling role. In preparation for a return to work, I chose a long schedule kindergarten, leveraged all the help I could from my parents during summer holidays, and encouraged my husband to open his more family-flexible small business as soon as he felt ready for it. By the time my daughter was ready to go to school, I believed I could “risk” the demands of a leadership role, which was a dream come true for my career.

It was only after I left Genpact that I started to realize the value of the flexible schedule and the openness to work from home when my child was sick. These were not considered “reasonable options” for a senior staff member at that time. Amongst others, this was one of the reasons I decided to rejoin Genpact.

It is very important for me to be the last to leave the house, only after ensuring myself the day started well for my loved ones. I would feel terribly guilty not being able to care for my sick daughter when in need. So when the time came for me to look again at where my career was heading, these two “advantages” were key in my assessment of job opportunities.

Even with the right values, family support and workplace policies and resources, I always have to remind myself: “You can have everything in life, but not all at once.” I still make trade-offs every day, but don’t we all? What works for me is that I establish and maintain a rhythm that lets me perform well within the flexible framework of the options and limits of the choices I’ve made.

I’ve aligned what success means for me to my personal standards, and that makes for a more enjoyable life. Malcolm Forbes defined Diversity as being “the art of thinking independently together.” If diversity is to become the vital force for new thinking and new successes that it can be, we have to remember that any big change we would like to drive starts by making a change within ourselves.


Diana Dumbrava
2014-11-25 14:18:39

Nice to see that! Women can coquer the world !! ;))

2014-10-24 16:31:25

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