In a recently held Rakuten Roundtable for International Women’s Day for the Group’s EMEA region employees, company leaders from Rakuten Advertising, Rakuten France, Rakuten Europe and Rakuten Blockchain Lab shared insights, ideas and their outlooks for the future.
Marion Goeusse-Kobik, Communications and B2B Marketing Director of Rakuten France, highlighted why “women in the workplace” is a crucial topic today.
“It’s a business imperative,” noted Goeusse-Kobik. “It’s not just about women. Companies with 50 percent women in senior operating roles achieve 20 percent higher rates of return on equity on average. Gender balance is a statistically-proven business driver.”
“Women’s challenges are business challenges. Leaders and businesses need to understand and listen to their teams and learn what challenges employees are facing in order to take the right action.”Rakhee Jogia, Managing Director International, Rakuten Advertising
Rakhee Jogia, Managing Director International at Rakuten Advertising, similarly touched on the value of diversity to a company’s overall productivity. “A company benefits from diverse and divergent thinking, it enables growth and innovation, and improves productivity.”
Fergal Downey, Regional VP of Rakuten Blockchain Lab, explained the importance of engaging men in conversations around women in the workplace, emphasizing that the discussion enabled him to gain awareness of the challenges women might face and the impact of unconscious bias.
“I learned about mansplaining, and it let me reflect on my own behavior. As a result of this increased awareness, I started to be more conscious.”
Downey also noted the importance that companies play in creating a safe and equal environment: “Companies need to show their employees how they can get involved in shaping the diversity roadmap, by forming ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) to become both drivers of the conversation and build allyship.”
Jogia added, “Women’s challenges are business challenges. Leaders and businesses need to understand and listen to their teams and learn what challenges employees are facing in order to take the right action. We need to identify a starting point, by naming existing initiatives and creating a thorough analysis and then move from there.”
How to create a gender equal workplace?
Increasing awareness and transparency are key elements of creating an inclusive and equal work environment. Rakuten has put in place D&I advisory groups made up of employees in Japan, APAC, the Americas and EMEA to address those topics through internal communication channels and events, like last month’s Roundtable event. Through these D&I teams, it can then bring important topics for consideration to senior leadership.
“Transparency helps build trust,” commented Downey. “It might show areas in which we do well. It also might show where there’s potential room for improvement. Despite the numbers, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate how serious we are about taking action.”
“People are the drivers of positive change and have the power to accelerate new mindsets. Mentorship and leadership training are good examples of how to challenge everyone’s unconscious bias.”Marion Goeusse-Kobik, Communications and B2B Marketing Director, Rakuten France
But raising awareness is not just relevant on a company level – it’s important for all employees. As a lot of the day-to-day experiences of women are shaped primarily by interactions with their colleagues and managers, it is critical to understand the barriers women face in the workplace.
“We need to continue creating a culture that fully leverages the benefits of diversity. Bringing everyone’s unique ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the table. For employees to move from awareness to action, consistent training and reinforcement is needed, and we need to continuously explore creative solutions,” Downey shared.
Goeusse-Kobik also highlighted the importance of focusing on culture: “A lot of women, and likewise men, want to have greater impact [on company culture] and what we need to do as a leading company is to empower the key engine of change, which is people.”
“People are the drivers of positive change and have the power to accelerate new mindsets. Mentorship and leadership training are good examples of how to challenge everyone’s unconscious bias…. Together we need to walk the talk and create the change that we want to see in the world.”
The path toward inclusivity is only possible with true allyship and advocacy, explained Jogia, both individually and collectively. “On this journey, allyship is the first step, and the next one is advocacy, which is the action-based piece. An advocate is part of the change process. The power of advocacy comes in where a multitude of things comes together, and you have diverse discussion on what equity looks like and support the process from within.”
Why do we need to address the topic of women in the workplace?
While women and their allies continue to make progress in the fight for equal opportunities in the workplace, there is still much work to be done.
Women continue to be underrepresented in top management, on the board of directors and in many other leadership positions. Globally, women earn on average just 68% of what men are paid for the same work. It would take society 136 years to reach equality and to close the global gender gap, if we continue without changing fixed structures, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2021.
Research from sources such as McKinsey & Company on corporate America and the Center for Creative Leadership indicate the importance of companies taking action to realize the power of women and gender diversity in the workplace:
- Companies with more female employees have more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication, more meaningful work and less burnout.
- Women drive diversity, equity, inclusion efforts and innovation forward faster than men at the same level.
- Women support their teams (whether helping individual employees manage their workloads or checking on the wellbeing of colleagues) more than their male colleagues at the same level.
Previous research also showed that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on boards financially outperformed companies with the lowest representation of women on boards.