Improve gender diversity to survive in uncertain times

Gender diversity is vital for business success in an environment of increasing uncertainty, a South Africa-based expert said this week.

Kgomotso Ramoenyane, executive GM for Human Resources at Business Partners Limited said small and medium enterprises (SMEs) could benefit significantly from improving gender diversity in their companies because of the complementary skills, different perspectives and ideas women were able to bring.

South Africa has only 28% of senior management roles held by women, according to the 2017 Grant ThorntonWomen in business: New Perspectives on Risk and Reward report.

This is considerably lower than other regions like Eastern Europe, where 38% of senior positions are held by women.
However, instead of being distracted by comparisons, Ramoenyane urged the country’s businesses to focus on understanding the significant value a business derives from increasing gender diversity.

“Women often have complementary skills to those of men, creating a potent skill mix across teams,” she said. “Gender diverse teams also have access to a wider network and greater appeal across diverse markets and stakeholders. Most importantly, however, are the fresh perspectives women bring to the decision-making process,”

She explained: “The high levels of unpredictability and constant change which are defining features of the current business environment mean effective risk management is a strategic imperative. Homogenous group tend to display group think traits, which can lead to blind action. Gender diverse teams can overcome biases and help cultivate fresh innovative ideas and approaches to sustain business growth.”

Ramoenyane pointed out that entrepreneurship was one of the critical drivers for the inclusive economic growth South Africa so urgently needs. All businesses, including SMEs, can help drive this growth by actively supporting female entrepreneurship.

“Female entrepreneurs face greater challenges than their male counterparts, with fewer business-orientated networks, barriers in accessing finance and limited availability of role models and mentors,” she said.

“Businesses can help women to address these challenges by nurturing female entrepreneurial talent at a young age and reinforcing that the business environment needs them. This could include collaboration with tertiary educational institutions to facilitate internships and placements programmes to support new female entrepreneurs,”

She suggested that SMEs competing for scarce skills in a limited talented pool should actively reach out to women and create an employment environment which facilitates career development and growth, a good work-life balance and greater flexibility – aspects that are important to female employees.

“Increasing the numbers of women in business and paving the way for female entrepreneurs is far more than just ‘ticking the right boxes’. A gender diverse team makes good business sense and will help businesses to navigate a sea of risks in these tumultuous times.”

Photo: courtesy of Addicted 2 Success

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