In an article published on March 10th in The Inner Circle (membership required) web site, titled Irene Dorner, HSBC's New CEO, On Not Playing by the Rules, Elizabeth Lynch, Manager for WWB's Center for Microfinance Leadership responds:
I was encouraged by Irene Dorner’s remarks on International Women’s Day, and her support for the elimination of barriers for women to reinforce rather than erode an organization’s meritocratic foundation. Women's World Banking (WWB), a leading global microfinance network, works with microfinance institutions on precisely this issue: how can organizations invest the extra effort and attention to hiring, retaining and advancing qualified women without sacrificing the quality of its human talent.
As Dorner pointed out, there must be a two-pronged approach to improving gender diversity in leadership. Women need to have access to mentoring and critical leadership development inputs, such as business critical stretch work assignments. At the same time institutions must also assume responsibility for eliminating barriers to achieving greater diversity. Through its Center for Microfinance Leadership, WWB works at both of these levels: we target high-potential women professionals at leading microfinance institutions to participate in our executive education programs, co-designed and taught with Wharton Business School; and we work directly with institutions on building a sustained commitment to ensuring equal opportunity for all qualified staff.
Dorner recommends centralized audits of compensation practices to address gaps in pay for men and women. WWB works with microfinance institutions to audit the entire HR process – from recruitment to retention and promotion – to uncover where there may be challenges for equal opportunity or access. Much of the work in this area is about reinforcing the meritocratic foundation of the organization. Transparency and fairness are among the most effective mechanisms to eliminate biases against women.
Dorner raises the tricky subject of quotas and targets. WWB believes that the solution must fit the institution. For some highly target driven microfinance institutions, quota systems fit with the culture and focus of the organization, but for others, fixed targets can distort the objective of gender diversity initiatives. WWB works with microfinance institutions to design customized ways to motivate and measure managers’ commitment to gender diversity.
WWB’s goal is to transform the microfinance industry’s thinking around gender diversity: from a ‘nice to have’ to a fundamental requirement for sound and sustainable business growth.
Elizabeth Lynch, Center for Microfinance Leadership, Women's World Banking