Did you know #inspireinclusion is NOT the UN theme for this year’s International Women’s Day? That’s the theme chosen by https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About and it is indeed aspirational and inclusion is great. But it is a tad fluffy.
It’s easy to get carried away with the gifts and “wishes” and the cool conferences. They all have their place – every year the dialogue around Women’s Day gets deeper and more practical. On the 14th I’m moderating a panel for Virtusa in Singapore, and speaking to the panelists, it’s heartening to see how far we’ve come since I first started celebrating IWD. With a rose.
Back to the numbers.
Where numbers are assigned, there is always a measurable shift. Here are some targets I’d love to see adopted:

1. Gender balance in the hiring pool

If the number of candidates for a role are not distributed equally by gender there is no way you can deliver on a goal of having an equal gender mix in your team. This excerpt from a Harvard Business Review article should be a major eye-opener “When there were two minorities or women in the pool of finalists, the status quo changed, resulting in a woman or minority becoming the favored candidate.” Please read the article – it is based on research and it is awesome. But if you’re in the TL:DR group, here’s the simple synopsis – candidates in the majority bucket of applicants are way more likely to get hired. Even if it is more men applying for a stereotypically female role like nurse manager.
Action Item:
Insist that the pool of candidates has minority candidates as the majority. 

2. Gender parity in salaries

Research the gender pay gap in your industry. It varies quite a bit based on country and industry. Singapore has an overall rate of just 6% and it is falling. Women in digital marketing in the US might make more than men. A 16% pay gap in the global marketing industry may not seem like much – but it basically means you’re not getting paid over a month each year!  Perceptions matter too – this DBS study conducted in India has insights on pay negotiation by city.
Action Item:
Ensure your company has a gender pay gap assessment. And then work to bridge it.

3. Gender parity in sourcing ie Women Owned Business Enterprises should be 50% of your spends

As an entrepreneur myself this cuts close to home. Did you know that women own 1/3 of all businesses worldwide but make up just 1 percent of global procurement of large corporations? Ouch, ouch, ouch.
There’s more that you can read about the challenges women face on the UN website but there are many factors ranging from access to finance to the gender imbalance in procurement teams.
Systematic approach is what works – for example, the Development Bank of Austria provides long term loans to CreditAccess Grameen which in turn finances women from low income households to fund income generation. Disclosure: I’m a Director on the Board of CreditAccess Grameen.
Some large organizations have a similar approach to ensuring their procurement base is diversified – but many don’t. And here’s where business decision makers can step in.
Action Item:
In your sourcing pool ensure that women-owned business enterprises are the majority. Please don’t do it for easy gives like housekeeping supplies or stationery – look at the volume of spends. That’s when you can make a difference. And if you’re looking to broaden the diversity of your spends in marketing might I mention that Paul Writer is a woman owned business enterprise always keen to work with B2B firms in the areas of go-to-market strategy, marketing plan development and program management, digital content strategy and implementation.
So this Women’s Day, I don’t want roses or cute messages. I want you to implement at least one of these action items.
PS: I wrote a piece for IWD in 2022 and 2021



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