Gender diverse companies outperform on all fronts

Society as a whole needs to address gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

Gender representation on boards and management has come under the spotlight in recent years, with a recent World Economic Global Gender Gap Report indicating that there is a growing urgency for action.

At the present rate of change, it is expected to take nearly a century to achieve gender parity, according to the report.

Globally, women make up only 36 percent of senior private sector managers and public sector officials, while only 18.2 percent of firms globally are led by a woman and, on average, 22.3 percent of board members in OECD countries are women.

“Companies with gender-balanced leadership perform better, both financially and otherwise. Gender diverse organisations outperform on profitability, value creation, productivity, innovation, decision-making and employee retention and satisfaction compared to their less diverse peers,” explains Videsha Proothveerajh, CEO of LexisNexis South Africa.

The legal technology company has 67 percent female representation on its board, 56 percent female representation in senior management and 43 percent in top management. In addition, employee surveys show that 83 percent of the workforce believes that the organisation is serious about diversity and inclusion.

This commitment to gender balance was recently acknowledged when LexisNexis was named as one of South Africa's Top Gender Empowered Companies in the Business Support Services sector of the Standard Bank Top Women Awards programme.

Endorsed by Standard Bank, United Nations Women and supported by the Commission for Gender Equality, the programme recognises organisations in both the public and private sectors for prioritising gender empowerment as an integral part of their business strategies.

Videsha, who is the first female CEO of the company, has focused on reducing hierarchy, embedding a common culture and strengthening inclusion and diversity to ensure a more effective and empathetic organisation since she took on the role in January 2020.

“At LexisNexis South Africa, inclusion and diversity exceeds just compliance with legislation. It is about creating a fair and equitable work environment where everyone can be their authentic self and where they feel they are able to contribute their views,” she says.

“It is not just about helping women advance but also about assisting individuals from all marginalised groups who don’t always have a voice or who are not always recognised for the leadership attributes they possess, to claim their rightful place in the work environment. We are making a very deliberate effort to hire women where opportunities exist and where we find the right skill sets, which supports a more collaborative leadership style, open communication and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. This, ultimately, enables more innovative decision-making.”

LexisNexis has also designed and launched a graduate programme targeting young women from previously disadvantaged backgrounds and ensuring the company benchmarks roles and minimises or rectifies pay disparities.

“I believe strongly that gender equality, diversity and inclusion are not concerns that only women and those directly impacted should fight for, but issues that society as a whole needs to work together to address. We cannot expect to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, grow our economies for greater shared prosperity or deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for all of society, without inclusion of over half of the population,” Videsha added.