Gender diversity: Not just good, it’s good business

March 8, 2019

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The economy has never been more competitive. Not just for those seeking employment, but also for those recruiting. How can organisations make smart decisions in recruitment and leadership, and future-proof their workforce? In our experience, one of the secrets lies in making gender diversity a business priority.

Gender diversity isn’t just good – it’s good business. The world economy stands to gain $28 trillion by closing the gender gap in the workforce.

Research shows that companies which are more gender diverse are 21% more likely to see above-average profitability compared to those who are not. It makes sense – wider diversity means a broader spread of experiences, leading to better performance by teams.

Whether they are drivers, security personnel, or directors, women take charge at every level in BRAC. Inclusiveness is one of the four BRAC values, and putting women at the centre of everything we do has been a priority for our organisation since we began. Even so, there is a lot more to do. Here are 8 ways we are trying every day:

  1. Women in leadership – We conduct regular workshops, seminars, and training sessions for women in leadership, as well as taking our messages outside the organisation through leadership events for women. A mentorship programme is currently being developed which will partner junior employees with senior mentors to improve women representation in mid-level management.
  2. Understanding parental duties – According to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006, women employees have the right to six months paid maternity leave. As we realise much of the cost involved in raising a baby is incurred at the beginning, we give female staff the option of collecting the whole six months’ salary as a lump sum amount at the start of their leave. For women adopting, two months’ paid leave can be availed. Expecting fathers can also avail paternity leave for seven days.
  3. Fostering a culture of speaking up – Forums and workshops which focus on gender sensitisation are conducted for all employees throughout the year. We also specifically hold forums for employees to voice their concerns about any issue that the organisation can aid in solving. The most popular of these initiatives is Mon Khule Kotha Bola. This flagship forum has been the birthplace of many of the initiatives mentioned below, including the daycare centre, Sexual Harassment Redressal Committee, provision of scooty loans, adoption and paternity leave, staff discount at BRAC University and desk work for female staff.
  4. Ensuring potential during periods – Two days of desk work are available for any female staff member during menstruation, to acknowledge the physical toll that menstruation has on the body.

Photo: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani

  1. Employee-savvy, parent-conscious – Understanding that children need full-time  care in their first years of life, BRAC’s head office has had an on-site daycare centre catering to 110 children since 1997. Parents can spend time with their children during their lunch break, know throughout the day that they are never more than a few floors away and nursing mothers can avail extra time for breastfeeding.
  2. Supporting safe commuting – A regular transport service, scooty/motorbike riding lessons and interest-free scooty/motorbike loans up to BDT 100,000 are available for full-time female employees.
  3. Support for the mind – An in-house psychosocial counselling unit with two trained counsellors is open to all employees during office hours throughout the week.
  4. Putting in systems for gender equity – A dedicated gender unit provides technical support on diversity and gender. Gender guidelines and policies are embedded in every part of the organisation, and this unit makes certain that everyone is on board with them. The unit ensures all employees participate in gender training sessions, are aware of and clearly understand BRAC’s gender policy, have access to the contact of Sexual Harassment Redressal Committee, that all women employees receive the benefits they are entitled to, and that all employees are respectful to their coworkers.

We see the benefits of a diverse workforce every day in BRAC and are fully committed to doing even more. We will continue to fight against anything that stands in the way of women’s development, holds women back, deprives them of their rights and damages their self-esteem or self-respect. In the words of our founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, “gender equality is a prerequisite for a just and humane society. We must succeed in achieving it”.

 

Luba Khalili is a deputy manager at BRAC Communications. Sarah-Jane Saltmarsh is the head of programme and enterprise communications, BRAC Communications.

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