But they have also shown that companies, with higher percentages of women in leadership roles, achieve better performance in terms of workplace safety, innovation and sustainability. Promoting the presence of women in areas considered predominantly masculine, brings clear advantages and makes the company more competitive on the market.
It is estimated that only 18% of senior positions in the world are held by women. The reality of the work remains sceptical of conferring these roles to women. How can we support gender equality in companies and lead women to top positions?
Gender equality will be certified in the workplace
In a survey sponsored by Covestro, 50% of people indicated that full gender equality will be achieved in 50 years. But can companies and society wait that long? If it is true that sustainability and inclusion, innovation and equality go hand in hand, can we expect to reach such important goals only long after the middle of this century?
The need to support and promote women throughout their career is taking root in the corporate world. However, despite this awareness, it is not possible to make effective gender equality concrete.
Sucheta Govil herself, Covestro's Chief Commercial Officer, says that there is a need to takes concrete actions and commitments from companies to increase female power in the world of work. We cannot rely on the goodwill of companies, but we must implement binding and incentive initiatives.
In Italy, following the EU indications, the PNRR plan (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) provides a 10 million euro fund to reduce the gap between women and men at work. The proposal is to reward and certify companies that will apply the principles of equal pay between men and women and will implement a series of policies that favour access to work and the hiring of executive positions for women.
At the international level, the guidelines have been defined by the UN and are promoted by the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs).
The 7 principles for gender equality
Covestro joined WEPs to concretely apply the principles of gender equality in the company. These are guidelines to inspire concrete actions in terms of inclusion.
- High-level corporate leadership, to integrate, make gender equality and the empowerment of women concrete and visible.
- Treat workers fairly without discrimination: this translates into better talent acquisition, employee retention and satisfaction, more productivity and better decision making.
- Employee health, well-being and safety: provide sanction and eliminate sexual harassment and violence that affects the general well-being of workers and consequent absenteeism and loss of productivity.
- Education and training for career advancement: shared values improve all business practices and create strong workgroups.
- Business development, supplier control and marketing practices: companies are an ecosystem and can influence the change in business partners and the promotion of innovative ideas.
- Community initiatives and advocacy: respond to the needs of consumers who are increasingly sensitive to this issue with the creation of reference communities that support and promote products and entrepreneurial actions.
- Measurement and reporting: Company commitments should be monitored to assess actual progress.
Among the European chemical industries, Covestro is one of the first companies that joined the WEPs. Today the percentage of women on the board of directors is 25%, a first step to fully apply the values that are a constituent part of the company. Diversity, inclusion and equity are engines of innovation and are part of those global corporate sustainability actions that Covestro is committed to pursuing at the time of its foundation.
How corporate culture changes with gender equality
Having a higher percentage of women in leadership roles allows for greater diversification and brings creative ideas and innovations. Inclusive teams mean wealth. Perhaps they are slower and more complex to manage but they represent an antidote to the banality of decisions that lead companies to have reduced prospects, poor foresight, no innovation. Two MIT researchers, Anita Wooley and Tom Malone studied the working groups and found that those where the number of women was the most, performed better at problem-solving. This is because women are led not only to performance but also to the functioning of the team, to listening and integrating its members. In Covestro, to encourage a change of mentality in the corporate organization, activities have been established that involve employees in groups that deepen and discuss the concepts of diversity and inclusion. It is a must because promoting female talents means making that company attractive to the new generation of "creative minds" who are determining success and competitiveness on the market.
The experience of inclusive teams in Covestro
As Chief Commercial Officer, Sucheta Govil went to the Dormagen plant in Germany, in a department led by a woman, where she could see how, in a traditionally male sector, the ability to combine an empathic vision and technical knowledge has created a work environment where for 3 years there have been no serious accidents. An extraordinary result concretely demonstrates that inclusive teams transform and improve companies.
I am convinced that diversity, equality and above all inclusion are the key to success. When different people work together respectfully, they can achieve the best results for the company and drive innovation. These values are an integral part of Covestro's corporate culture, in all its structures and processes, and are deeply rooted in our values which are summarized in the motto "We are 1".