Championing Gender Equality Starts with Empowerment

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Championing Gender Equality Starts with Empowerment

By: Rohini Anand

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"Equal treatment of women and men is not just the right thing to do – it is also good for business." @SodexoUSA
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 1:15pm


The prestigious WEPs CEO Leadership Award recognizes business leaders for their exceptional championship of gender equality and support for the Women's Empowerment Principles. Michel Landel, Chief Executive Officer, Sodexo and Janet Awad, Regional Chair of Latin America and Country President, Sodexo Chile, were recently honored with the 2016 7 Principles WEPs CEO Leadership Award.

“Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.” ~ Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, both men and women see inequalities in the workplace – 77% of women and 63% of men said “this country needs to continue making changes to give men and women equality in the workplace.”

Equal treatment of women and men is not just the right thing to do – it is also good for business. Perhaps the most definitive evidence that gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge came in a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report that found $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Participation of women in our enterprises, and in the larger community, makes sound business sense now and in the future. A broad concept of sustainability and corporate responsibility that embraces women’s empowerment as a key goal benefits everyone. The 7 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) are an essential guide for organizations that are beginning their gender inclusion journey, and for those increasing current gender balance goals. The common set of strategies put in place by the WEP is essential and relevant, regardless of geographies and nationalities.

The case for gender equality is strong.  Organizations cannot afford to exclude half the talent pool in a world where employees are one of our most important competitive assets. According to Catalyst, high-potential women advance more slowly than their male peers, in terms of both career progression and pay, even though they employ career management strategies similar to men’s. Organizations that neglect this critical talent-management issue risk lagging their competitors in attracting, developing, and retaining the best candidates to serve as the next generation of leaders.

With these important facts and the growing pool of research on gender equity a business context, Sodexo conducted a study to research if gender balance made a difference in our business environment. We reviewed the key performance indicators (KPIs) we value within our own teams and began an internal study.

The global study consisted of 50k managers in 100 entities and included a comparison of KPIs for gender balanced teams (those teams with 40 – 60% women) with those that were not gender balanced. Consistent to the findings of other research, the results confirmed that gender balanced teams had consistent and predictable positive results on all KPIs, including engagement, brand awareness, client retention, and financial performance as compared to those teams with less than 40% women or more than 60% women.

Two factors in this body of research are particularly unique. First, up until now, gender balance studies have examined the correlation between women in top-tier management positions (C-Suite and Board of Directors) and financial performance. The Sodexo study takes the research a step further through a comparison of how gender balance at all management levels – from site management to C-Suite – correlates with performance. Second, historically most studies have focused on one indicator - financial performance. The Sodexo study reviewed both financial and non-financial performance indicators such as growth, profit and cash generation, along with employee engagement and client retention.

Our leadership is committed to gender equity. We are cascading the findings through the organization to ensure all managers understand that by building gender balanced teams, performance will improve. As we share the results both internally and externally, our new target is for managers to achieve 40 – 60% gender balanced teams based on this research.

We are proud of the work we have accomplished at Sodexo; female representation is comprised of 31% of Senior Leaders, 38% Board of Directors, and 43% of the Group Executive Committee. It is our responsibility, along with other organizations, to join forces, share best practices, and maintain our focus on overcoming barriers to women’s empowerment across all generations.

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Rohini Anand, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo. She is responsible for the strategic direction, implementation and alignment of Sodexo's integrated global diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as Sodexo's sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and wellness strategies. Dr. Anand is considered a pioneer and subject matter expert on organizational change and diversity and inclusion, she has authored several articles and has been published in numerous trade journals. 

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