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Should I stay or should I go? Improving gender balance as a tool for female staff retention and better customer engagement – Allyson Zimmermann, Executive Director at Catalyst Europe

Car industry

Allyson Zimmermann is Executive Director at Catalyst Europe, where she works with leading global organisations, developing and supporting Catalyst members in advancing their diversity and inclusion initiatives to make positive change for women in the workplace. As a citizen of the US and Switzerland, she currently resides in Zurich, previously having lived and worked in five other countries. Allyson holds a B.A. in Communications and German from the University of Minnesota and outside of her role at Catalyst she is a professional coach.

Allyson Zimmermann
Allyson Zimmermann

“…To serve the market, you need to look like the market…”

The appointment of Mary Barra as CEO of General Motors last year, making her the first woman to run a major auto maker, was an important milestone in this industry. The fact we are celebrating this as a ‘first’ in the industry means that there is still a long way to go.

Women still missing from key, mission-critical roles

We know that women are poorly represented in many areas of the industry and having women missing from key, mission-critical roles means that organisations are only recruiting from a very limited pool of talent.

In traditionally male-dominated industries, like the automotive industry, addressing the issue of gender balance should be seen as an essential business priority, especially when companies are suffering from a talent shortage.

Opportunity to become an employer of choice

For these male-dominated industries, it’s imperative that organisations see this challenge as an opportunity to become employers of choice and to attract, and retain, the best talent in the marketplace. No single industry has the silver bullet for the advancement of women, but organisations do need to question their assumptions about talent.

Taking an objective look at workplace culture

Qualified women are out there but the recruitment process or indeed the company’s culture may not be conducive to retaining them. Understanding the culture of your workplace, plus knowing what is valued by employees, may hold the key to why people stay or leave.

For instance we know from our research that men and women equally want flexible work options but without them women are 28% more likely to downsize their aspirations to the top jobs. (Source: Catalyst research – The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time—Busting the Myths Behind Flexible Work Arrangements) Organisations can take a lead and look at their work options, be they more varied shifts, part-time and job share roles or more remote working options perhaps?

When it comes to customers, knowledge (and diversity) equals power

With women now making 70% of all global purchases and controlling $20 trillion in worldwide consumer spending, it’s absolutely imperative for all organisations, regardless of industry, to get this right. To serve the market, you need to look like the market. If you avoid half the pool of talent, what are the odds that you truly understand your market? (Source for stats: Bloomberg)

Here’s GM’s CEO, Mary Barra in conversation with Catalyst’s President and CEO, Deborah Gillis at the 2015 Catalyst Awards Conference:

http://www.catalyst.org/

https://twitter.com/catalystinc

https://www.youtube.com/user/CatalystClips

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