In order to analyze the gender mainstreaming as a human resources manager, I will make the assumption that I'm the human resources manager at Nassar Investment Company in Bethlehem; a company specialized in manufacturing and marketing of natural stones.
Through this analytical paper addressed to the General Manager in order to suggest policies regarding human resources management in my company with the purpose of improving and achieving the company's general strategic goals and objectives.
I will start by the benefits that the gender mainstreaming will bring to the company, then I will turn to the setting up of new suggested policies that will ensure the implementation of gender mainstreaming in a planed and effective way. Then I will mention the problems and restrictions we may encounter in this process. In the last section I turn to note how this will help women to shatter the glass ceiling.
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We should find ways in order to enable our company to compete in the competitive environment and markets that we and every business encounter. Financial capital is not considered as always was believed to be the cornerstone of the business success, on the other hand many companies are realizing the importance of the work force as an important factor contributing to the success of their companies and improve their performance.
As a new field of human resource management which is a strategic human resource management, that is the link of human resource management with the strategic goals and objectives of the firm or company, gender mainstreaming is considered as a strategic human resource strategy that plays an effective role on achieving our company's strategic goal of increasing profits, economical growth and workers welfare, especially female workers. I will refer to these topics in the first section. In order to ensure that the gender mainstreaming is implemented within our company, we need to enhance and enforce other policies that will enhance gender equality and facilitate the process, to these policies I will refer to in the second section.
Surely we will face some problems and constrains regarding the new policies, to this I will refer to in the third section, listing and suggesting also solutions and procedures to overcome these constrains smoothly without hindering the planned process.
Then in the last section I will refer how the gender mainstreaming can help women shatter the glass ceiling so that they can arrive at a level where they have access to resources, and take decisions.
Why Gender Mainstreaming? What are the benefits of Gender Mainstreaming?
First of all gender mainstreaming is a comprehensive strategy aimed at achieving greater gender equality (UNDP, 2007). In other words it aims to change the existing gender relationship between men and women with the object of achieving more equal share of power, decision making, responsibility, and access to resources which at the end results on benefiting both men and women. The current gender situation in Palestinian companies is that women do not take an effective role, they in the majority of cases are marginalized, they do not have access to resources, and they are not given the opportunity to take decisions. The fact is that these companies do not realize the benefits of gender mainstreaming and the effective benefits that this process can bring to them as women becomes active participants in their companies. So as a strategy to be more competitive, applying gender mainstreaming in our company according to Business and Marketing School (ESIC) will bring the following benefits that will enhance our competitive advantage, contribute to growth and achieving our strategic goals:
1-Enhance our employee's motivation and creativity.
2- To increase the professionalism of our work force.
3- Improvement of labor environment.
4-Our company and employees will be used to changes in the future.
5- Contributing to create a better external image of our company.
6-Reduction of inefficient costs (Izcue and Associates 2009)
Enhance our employee's motivation and creativity
Gender mainstreaming will enhance our employees' motivation and creativity as there will be diversified work force. This in turn will lead to a more satisfied and optimized work force, in addition gender mainstreaming will facilitate the flexibility forms of work linked with family based policies which at the end will lead to more satisfied employees that will support our company's goals and objectives. As it is known employee satisfaction will lead to more productive employees with high level of loyalty.
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Increase the professionalism of our work force.
Our company with this new suggested strategy will benefit mainly from the women capability as an important factor to enhance our work force. According to the Palestinian Ministry of higher education the percentage in 2008 of youth men and women joining high education in Palestine is as follows:
We can clearly note that percentage of youth women in Palestine joining high education is increasing since 1995, and it reached a stage close to that of men.
So with an increasing number of graduate and professional women in the market, our company will be able to select and recruit the best suitable person to join our departments. In addition gender mainstreaming will help also to decrease the employees turn over especially among current women workers as a result of equality between men and women especially in the salary issues, and as a result of improving their lives by conciliation between work and family life. Our women work force will find themselves in a flexible, relaxed environment which at the end of the day will increase their productivity.
So from the foregoing point we clearly note that gender mainstreaming in our human resources policies will extend our potential applicants pool which will open the opportunity to select the most professional persons to join our company.
Improvement of labor environment
Improvement of labor environment: once we have equality of opportunity and treatment between men and women, this also will enhance the equality between all employees either women or men. This in turn will contribute to a better internal, satisfying environment for all employees which will contribute to decrease the workers absence, and increase productivity.
In addition the presence of women work force in our company will enhance the work risks prevention procedures. In other words we will implement prevention and security procedures for all our employees which at the end will enhance our employees' security and health conditions. Even the enhancement of security and risk prevention procedures will cost our company a bit more, but in the other hand the benefits overcome the costs.
Our company and employees will be used to changes in future
With this new strategy, our company will be used to changes that may happen in our company as the external environment is very competitive. In addition our current staff will be more adaptable for future changes or new strategic forms of working. This is important since the markets are in continues process of changing and every time they are becoming more challenging and more difficult. So with this new strategy our company will encounter a new innovative, challenging work force to meet the increasing challenges facing us and obliging us to make substantive changes internally.
Contributing to create a better external image of our company
Gender equality in our company and the opened equal opportunities for both men and women will help in creating a satisfied image in external social responsibility. Our stakeholders and clients will be more satisfied towards us. This in turn will open new commercial opportunities for our company as well as support from the public opinion towards us.
Reduction of inefficient costs
By introducing gender mainstreaming and open the opportunities for both men and women to apply for opened vacancies, we can reduce the inefficient costs resulted from gender discrimination in the recruitment process. In other words we will no longer employ inefficient persons due to gender discrimination.
Policies to encourage Gender Mainstreaming
Internal policies that should enforce the process of gender mainstreaming in our company lies within three categories: equal treatment of both genders, flexible working conditions especially for women with family responsibilities, and raising awareness courses for our employees and managers.
Policies of equal treatment:
First of all we have to establish policies as a starting point of gender mainstreaming that will ensure equal treatment of both genders in our company especially in the job specification, job description, wage scale, promotion strategies (ILO 2004). This in turn will help to create a fair labor environment where all our employees will compete in the labor force based on their qualifications and experiences which will lead them to improve their work and productivity.
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Our company's policies will focus on ensuring and encouraging the presence of women in middle and higher managerial positions in accordance to their capacities and qualifications.
In addition our training and educational courses should be given to our employees based on equal opportunities. This will also depend upon their performance and experience.
In addition all internal communications and documentations should not include any type of linguistic gender discrimination. Also we as human resources department should review all our published documents, procedures, policies, and information to make sure they do not include any gender linguistic discrimination.
Raising awareness courses for our employees and managers:
We should from time to time hold orientation courses about the importance of our female work force in our company and promote the idea that women work force are a major contributor to our success and are in par with our men work force.
In the second stage, we should also hold courses about work behavior in an environment where men and women work together, in addition to important orientation courses about sexual harassment and how our employees should respect each other (ILO 2004), and procedures to follow to denounce it in case this happens taking into consideration the confidentiality of information.
Flexible Working Conditions especially for our women work force:
Flexible working conditions for our employees with family responsibilities should be put in force especially for our women work force as follows:
1-Promote part time work for women with family responsibilities (ILO 2004). In other words women may be asked to be present at our company's offices for short hours with the ability of working from home especially with internet and connection facilities. This will enable them to carry on their work duties and family responsibilities.
2-Women should be given the opportunity of unpaid leave but the guarantee that they have their position available once they decide to return. By this way we will not lose their capabilities and experience working with us. In addition these workers will be more loyal to our company. Also women in our company should be given a period of breast feeding when they give birth to enable them to take care of their new baby.
3-We also can contract a child care facility in which we can contribute partially with our work force. This will be as an instrument to attract our employees and decrease the turn over rate.
4- Flexibility to allow them to take care of their children whenever they are sick.
It is important to note that flexibility is a major tool in gender mainstreaming and helping our women workforce, but it should be wisely used because on the other hand it may enhance and enforce the traditional role of women (reproductive role and taking care of children and home). For that we should apply the flexibility for men as well:
1-Men may ask for paternity leave to help their wives and take care of their children.
2-Men may ask for leave when their children are sick.
Creation of Gender Issues Committee:
A gender issue committee should be established in our company to get feedback from our work force in a continuous base and adopt policies accordingly especially from our women work force in non traditional positions. In addition in this committee will be opened for new suggestions and complains. This will help to create a confidence environment where all our employees feel relaxed and comfortable and thus contributing to our mission and goals. It is important to engage women members in this committee since nobody will understand women more than themselves, in addition a women in the committee will encourage other women employees to express their ideas and suggestions.
At last we must assign one or more of our women workforce to represent us in the labor unions that are responsible for workers and employees rights in Palestine. By this way they will participate in meeting contributing to our gender committee by new ideas, and on the other hand be as a means of advocacy in the labor unions to promote the idea of gender mainstreaming on other companies here in Palestine.
The main constrain that we will face is the cultural and social attitudes and perceptions of what kind of professions women should have. A social perception is that women's professions are mainly nursing and teaching. This is the horizontal occupational segregation, but that does not have to do anything with the women ability to perform other professions and works of whatever kind. In addition this perception also keeps the women in vertical occupational segregation as men think that women can not perform managerial tasks and take decisions. This constrains are general perceptions of our society, so what we can do is raising awareness inside our company by holding as mentioned earlier courses and orientation. In addition to enhance the policies just mentioned.
By this way we as a company can contribute to raise awareness that should be at a society level.
The second constrain, one of the invisible causes, is that men colleagues, and other stakeholders such as customers and suppliers do not see women in equal conditions to men. In addition, women in the majority of the cases are excluded by the informal networks such as workgroups because of the perception that women can not devote much of their time and energy to the work due to family responsibilities. The main solution or procedure to overcome these constrains is through raising awareness programs enhancing women's ability and capabilities especially in the environment of advanced technology as mentioned earlier, in addition to introducing working flexibility measure as just mentioned in the policies.
The third constrain or difficulty is that our team; either the low, medium, or high level lack sufficient knowledge of gender equality and its' benefits. So we may need extensive raising awareness courses at the beginning in order to engage all our employees in the process and gain their support.
Other constrain is that some women do not take a further step to managerial positions when really given the opportunity due to fear that they will not be able to assume their managerial roles and their family responsibilities. As mentioned before, we can solve this constrain by introducing flexible conditions and family friendly policies.
In addition we may encounter family refusal of involving their daughters, or wives in non traditional posts especially that we are a manufacturing entity where there are many men working in non traditional positions. We can solve this problem by explaining the incentives and internal policies that will protect our women workers from any sexual harassment and that they will be working in safe environment. In addition we can run awareness campaigns of our internal safe environment and policies especially at universities, commerce chambers, and labor union.
Shattering the glass ceiling:
Due to the fact that managers usually have the perception that non traditional jobs are for men, so when we apply the gender mainstreaming policies in our company we will help those women who have a degree or advanced qualifications and skills but without a job due to this perception to obtain their job and shattering the glass ceiling especially after they have finished their tertiary education.
In addition with equal opportunities, women can compete for managerial and high hierarchy position based on their performance on equal conditions to men. So those women with talent and creative abilities will be able to take these positions. They will have the supervision roles, take decisions within their departments to achieve the company's objectives. In addition when women are in high managerial positions, they will have a voice in the company administration. It is important to note this benefit of diversity as it will enhance creativity and motivation. Another important factor contributing to shatter the glass ceiling is that when we have equal opportunities for both genders, women will have higher opportunity for higher position especially that we have rotation of positions strategies. Rotation is important especially when companies want to decrease the risks of potential employees who may leave the company. On the other hand rotation may be implemented within the internal control procedures in the company, and thus offering the women with higher opportunity to take more responsibility and key position within the hierarchy of the company.
Once women reach managerial positions they will have access to resources as they will be better paid with other employment benefits. So in turn will also increase their access to resources at the family level where she will contribute along with her family.
From the foregoing, women will be given the opportunity to develop their career path that in the future will have more opportunities to handle on higher position within the same company, or either other key positions on other companies or organizations.
Women will benefit from flexible conditions given to both genders, as mentioned in the policies that men may ask for leave for family reasons. By this tool women will a reach a level where she will share the home and family responsibility with her husband, and surely she will have more opportunity to take decisions at the family bases with more access to resources contrary to the traditional role of reproductive.
As we have seen gender mainstreaming is an effective tool to set up our competitive advantage and achieve our objectives. We should understand that gender is about characteristics that a culture and society shape over time, while sex is the biology in which a human being is born. So we have to concentrate on the gender roles and change the perception within our company towards women so that the process is implemented successfully.
Diversity in our workforce opens the doors for more creative, and inovative ideas which at the end all of us will benefit. In addition as mentioned earlier human capital is considered a key element of our intangible resources which we have to develop, promote, and built a cooperation relationship.
Even at the beginning of the process we will face some constrains but on the other hand the benefits that we will have overcomes all difficulties. In addition with the suggested policies we will overcome these constrains.
At last, besides the projected benefits within our company, we have a major social responsibility which is the empowerment of women and promotion of their rights. In such a process we will contribute to the development of our society as women are considered key development actors.