Date: 14/10/2020

Gender Mainstreaming in Human Resources

The AmCham HR Forum and the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation together facilitated this event that discussed policies, ideas, and ways of mainstreaming gender issues in human resources, tackling discrimination, and safeguarding equality

The panellists, Dr Bojan Urdarević, Associate Professor at the Kragujevac Faculty of Law, Emila Spasojević, head of International Relations, Projects, and Legislation at the Office of the Equality Commissioner, Ivana Karanović of the Karanović & Partners Law Office, Vice Chairperson of the AmCham HR Forum, Marina Rakić of IBM, Dragana Koruga Ristić of Coca-Cola HBC, and Miro Smolović of PwC, shared their experiences of the importance of the gender perspective and the significance of diverse organisational teams. The discussion aimed at raising participants’ awareness of positive action to promote gender equality and presenting best practices in addressing gender-based discrimination and dispelling other stereotypes.

Gender equality means ensuring everyone equal opportunities for development, growth, and attainment of personal objectives, regardless of their gender. It applies to all aspects of life, from household chores to opportunities in the labour market to political engagement. In business contexts, employers are assumed to possess the most detailed knowledge of their employees’ needs, which makes them the best implementers of anti-discrimination policies that take into account the situation of each individual staff member.

The greatest number of discrimination complaints handled by the Equality Commissioner, Serbia’s government anti-discrimination watchdog, deal with employment issues. As many as 88% of the Commissioner’s recommendations to address instances of discrimination are put into effect. This raises an interesting question: companies and individuals certainly do not wish to be branded as discriminatory – but are they even aware that they engage in discrimination?

A study by the IBM Institute for Business Value that polled 2,300 C-suite officers, senior VPs, VPs, directors, middle managers, and nonmanagerial professionals found 79% of the respondents’ companies did not formally prioritise fostering gender quality in leadership, even though organisations that did so outperformed their competitors in profitability and income.

The study revealed that women in leadership roles were much better at communicating with people, as well as that team diversity correlated with business performance. The panel took these findings as their cue to highlight the best practices in mainstreaming gender equality, which is the primary responsibility of the human resources department. Gender equality in the workplace must be formally made a strategic priority if real change is to be achieved, as enlightened ideals are not enough. Leaders and HR officers have a key role to play in educating people about why team diversity matters and how to set up flexible working environments.

With some research indicating that overall gender equality will take between 50 and 100 years to achieve, the panellists concluded that the driver of change in this field was knowledge-building – from mandatory formal education across all public and private institutions to corporate training.

The event was moderated by Marija Jovanović, Project Manager at the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation.