Taking the pledge for gender equality

A group of professionals in the Cayman Islands is campaigning for gender equality in the workplace.

Gender Equality Cayman is made up of members of the private and public sectors who are giving their time and expertise to raise awareness of workforce equity and inclusion.

The nonprofit group has created a pledge for businesses to adopt to support gender equality and diversity within their organization.

“Achieving gender equality in the workplace means changing the status quo, and that takes conscious effort and commitment,” says Senior Labour Officer Janelle Muttoo of the Department of Labour and Pensions and director of communications for GEC.

“We’re fortunate that in Cayman, many businesses are already taking steps towards more equal gender representation at the top, reducing the pay gap and creating a culture of fairness,” she says. “The pledge helps these businesses to stay accountable to those objectives, and gives them access to the tools to meet those objectives.”

The pledge asks businesses “to create an environment in which people of all genders have equal opportunity to be hired, developed, promoted and fairly compensated.” It also calls for companies to commit to draft and implement a formal inclusion and diversity policy within the workplace.

The pledge is the result of a 2017 gender-in-the-workplace survey aimed at gauging employment diversity and opportunity in the Cayman Islands. The findings were released in the first “Gender Equality in the Cayman Islands” report, based on the survey results from around 600 people, 20 percent of which were men.

Roxanne Lorimer, senior manager with KPMG and chairperson of GEC, says response to the initiative has been positive. “Organizations have been very open to this discussion,” she says. “It’s about starting the conversation and making it a part of everyday business.”

She says GEC members will lend their expertise to assist businesses in developing or updating gender equity policies. The group also offers training to support leaders and human resources professionals in understanding and addressing gender diversity in their workplaces.

Gender diversity is a matter of good business as much as an issue of fairness.

“From a business point of view, we know that it is good to have diversity,” says Louise Reed, development and client relationship manager with Nova Recruitment and deputy chair of GEC. “Each year we see new studies and data linking gender diversity with better financial results for business. Making efforts to engage in a diverse workforce has been convincingly linked to improving the bottom line.”

Indeed, the business case for gender equality is well documented. Growing data by such groups as Catalyst, Credit Suisse Research Institute and McKinsey Global Institute shows that inclusion and diversity is a proven driver for improving profit margins, as well as a source of competitive advantage. In short, companies that embrace diversity and inclusion perform better than those that don’t.

“To employ the most talented workforce, made up of those who can add the most value, companies should ensure they have the capability to attract and retain from the entire talent pool available,” says Reed.

“Most companies will also have a widely diverse customer/client base,” she says. “Businesses who build teams that resonate with all are tapping into different sections of the population, which is essential for business growth.”

The goal is for companies to develop a culture that supports and cultivates female talent by implementing programs and policies that help women not only stay in the workforce, but thrive as well.

“The results of the GEC survey show that having a gender policy helps people feel like outcomes are more equal,” says Muttoo. “A gender policy communicates to staff that diversity and inclusion are important. That perception is powerful, but it’s also critical that the policy is enforced. Many times, inequalities at work come from unconscious biases. Having a policy ensures we are making business decisions in an equitable and methodical way, rather than based on our biases.”

Muttoo said the group will be conducting another survey to collect additional data to get a clearer picture of where female representation is lacking in Cayman.

“It’s exciting work,” she says. “Everyone has the drive to see it come together and go forward.”