The issue of gender balance touches nearly every corner of our lives – there is a collective demand for balance in politics, business and in our personal lives. But in the case of companies, gender balance should not only be addressed for the sake of equality, but also for the sake of performance.
Taking stock of gender balance
Looking around our world today, many indicators show that our society has taken great strides toward gender balance. Many countries have had or currently have a female head of state and women now outnumber men at some of the world’s leading universities. But this balance, unfortunately, is not found everywhere. The fact that the corporate glass ceiling remains largely intact shows us that that we are not as far along as we should be in the business realm. Although many companies have advocated for inclusion over the years, the business community as a whole still lacks gender balance: today, the average salary for women is equivalent to the average salary of men a decade ago.
As the leader of Sodexo, a company of 420,000 men and women, I believe that we need to address gender balance – not only for the sake of equality, but for the sake of our business as well. We are one of the largest employers in the world, and we serve 75 million consumers every day: the composition of our teams must resemble the people we serve. Gender balance is not only our professional responsibility but also a key pillar in the way we conduct our business.
I can remember a time, not so long ago, when it was relatively normal to be surrounded almost exclusively by men during executive meetings; a time when even speaking about the advancement of women was a curious subject to add to the agenda. Over the years I have worked with my teams towards finding a balance and, as a result, I have witnessed an influx of diverse points of view that breed debate and discussion. This active exchange of ideas engages employees, stimulates innovation and ultimately boosts our collective performance.
Finding the right balance
We have been convinced for some time of the social and professional benefits of gender balance – and our latest company-wide study on the effects of gender-balanced management proves it. Our research shows that leadership teams with the optimal balance – between 40 percent to 60 percent women – generate stronger results that are more sustained and predictable.
In my experience, balanced leadership is a source of richness, creativity and increased performance. Within the more balanced units of our company, we have also found that engagement was 4 percent higher and brand image was 5 percent stronger. In terms of the bottom line, our study revealed that units of our business with gender-balanced management were 13 percent more likely to deliver consistent organic growth, and 23 percent more likely to show an increase in gross profit.
The case can’t be clearer—gender balance in business can’t be labeled purely a women’s issue, or a matter of diversity for diversity’s sake: it’s an economic issue, and addressing it can benefit business and economic performance. This is my strong personal conviction, and it’s a priority for the organization.
Creating a culture of inclusion takes commitment and strategy.
Last year, our Sodexo Women’s International Forum for Talent (SWIFt) has organized mentoring sessions for more than 3,000 women with the aim of increasing women’s representation in leadership positions. We also have 14 local networks in place to support women, strengthen the pipeline and enroll high-potential women in leadership development initiatives – these types of initiatives help companies be more competitive and will pave the way for a more inclusive workplace.
In the years to come, we will work with our teams across the globe to introduce gender-balanced management into the entities where this is currently lacking by 2020-2025. And we will ensure that we have gender balance among our most senior leadership team by 2025.
Given the size and footprint of Sodexo both at local and global level, it is also our responsibility to share these principles and best practices with our clients through diversity awareness programs and training. As a business community, we need to work together to create a better place for women.
- The Time is Now and the Responsibility is Ours: 3 Imperatives to Achieve Gender Parity
- Turning a Diverse Workforce into Your Best Competitive Advantage
- Making it Happen: Creating New Pathways for Women Leaders
Michel Landel is Sodexo Group CEO and Chairman of the Executive Committee. As Group CEO, Michel lead the development of the company in more than 80 countries, together with the 420,000 employees of the company. Landel’s top priority as a leader has always been to foster the human factor within organiza-tions. He has committed Sodexo to programs contributing to economic, social and environmental development wherever it operates. Michel’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion has driven significant changes within the organization, making Sodexo a recognized leader in the world.
"Gender balance in business can’t be labeled purely a women’s issue, or a matter of diversity for diversity’s sake" https://t.co/YNPrS3y8wT
— Sodexo USA, Inc. (@sodexoUSA) March 17, 2016