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Human Resources

Data

HR data and personalization – TMI, or just enough?

8 October 2021 in Human Resources

The growing amount of data on diversity, equity and inclusion (DI&E) can help shine a light on gender imbalances in the workplace and pressure companies to alter their behavior. So said panelists...

The growing amount of data on equity, inclusion and diversity (EI&D) can help shine a light on gender imbalances in the workplace and pressure companies to alter their behavior. So said panelists in the first of a two-part webinar series on the role data plays in the journey towards gender equality. The event was organized by IMD in collaboration with exchange operator SIX Group as part of IMD’s overall EI&D strategy.

The case for standardizing data collection

Collecting data and making it public is important if we want to establish trust and accountability, said David Bach, Dean of Innovation and Programs at IMD. The issue is we haven’t agreed on what data should be disclosed.

Just as we use financial metrics to compare the profitability of companies, so there should be a standardized set of indicators – such as the gender pay gap or the distribution of women across the organization – that would create more transparency and allow comparisons across sectors and countries, said Bach.

“They are reductionist by definition, but I think they play a really important role in holding corporations accountable,” he said.

Millennials and Generation Z are increasingly looking beyond the paycheck when they decide to apply for a job. Requiring some kinds of standardized disclosure helps future employees, consumers, and other stakeholders make decisions about where they want to work and spend their money, he added.

Universal measurement systems for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting have shown that these efforts can be initiated by organizations and companies, and not by policymakers, said Bach.

Nonetheless, many organizations are reluctant to publish this data because it doesn’t show them in a good light.

Inside organizations, it makes sense to go deeper and consider not only the hiring and attrition rates of female staff. What happens over the life cycle of an employee and the “micro happenings” can contribute to career success, said Marion Leslie, Head of Financial Information at SIX Group, such as the number of times a female employee presents to the board.

It is worth bearing in mind that there are limits to the data, said Anuradha Seth, Senior Advisor Women’s Economic Empowerment, UN Women, since most collected data only captures women who work in formal employment.

“If you really talking about equity and inclusion, you need to be talking about women at the bottom of the pyramid as well.”

If you really talking about equity and inclusion, you need to be talking about women at the bottom of the pyramid as well.

Using data to retain talent and clients

Although Julius Baer does not publicly disclose its EI&D data, the bank has used it to help guide it on how to retain talent and clients, said Silke Mies, Head of Wealth Planning Switzerland & Germany.

For example, the bank asked its female employees in Germany what financial information they wanted to learn about, then launched a series of training courses on how women can manage their money over the course of their lives. This included addressing questions such as, “Do I need a prenup?” as well as information on managing finances on divorce or retirement.

The data also told Julius Baer that women – who in Switzerland needed their husband’s permission to open a bank account before 1976 – increasingly wanted to manage their own finances and were asking for more wealth planning services, said Mies.

Companies can also use data to create new products that enable people to vote with their money to help promote gender equality, said Leslie from SIX Group.

SIX introduced the SPI Gender Equality Index earlier this year – it measures Swiss companies by the number of women in their top management. Out of 100 companies in the SPI, only 27 met the criteria of having at least 20% of women on their board of directors and 15% on the management board, said Leslie. She admitted that SIX Group itself would not have made the cut if it were a publicly listed company.

Nonetheless, she believes that such indices draw attention to the problem and force change. “If you’re a company, you want to be in this index.”

We are not slaves to the data and the populations we encounter. We have agency, we can make decisions about how we invest in scholarships and mentorships, and so on.

Using data to force change

While data is important, companies and organizations should also consider other ways to promote gender equity, such as through role models, scholarships, and mentorship schemes. These can play an equally influential role in decision-making, said IMD’s Bach.

“We are not slaves to the data and the populations we encounter. We have agency, we can make decisions about how we invest in scholarships and mentorships, and so on.”

Seth from UN Women agreed, noting how the agency has been keeping records and tracking gender parity within the organization for decades, but questions the impact it has had beyond being used as a monitoring tool. Instead, what has made a difference is pressure from the outside, she added.

“Data is important,” said SIX Group’s Leslie, “but ultimately, we should worry less about the data and its aggregate, and more about what we can do to influence it.”

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