Sodexo, the world’s largest services company, has found teams managed by a balanced mix of men and women are more successful across a range of measurements including employee engagement and health and safety.
The five-year, one-of-a-kind study of 70 Sodexo entities across different functions represents 50,000 managers worldwide and tested the performance implications of gender inclusive work culture.
The study examined women across all levels of management – not just upper-level leadership positions – in order to investigate the “pipeline” that will ultimately affect gender balance at the top tier of businesses.
Sodexo’s study found that non-financial factors can also significantly benefit from a more equally structured leadership, with benefits including:
- Gender-balanced management reported an employee engagement rate that was 14 percentage points higher than other entities.
- Gender-balanced entities saw the number of accidents decrease by 12 percentage points more than other entities.
- Gender-balanced entities had an average client retention rate that was 9 percentage points higher than other entities.
- Gender-balanced entities had an average employee retention rate that was 8 percentage points higher than other entities.
Operating margins significantly increased among more gender-balanced teams than other teams.
The pattern of results indicated that a near-equal balance of men and women in management was critical to observing gains in financial and non-financial KPIs. Once the proportion of women in management exceeded 60%, the benefits plateaued, confirming that a mix between 40% and 60% is necessary for optimal performance.
Analysts also found a direct correlation between the percentage of women in the total workforce and those in management, indicating gender-balanced workforces and leadership create an environment supportive of career growth for women. This lends support to the idea that gender parity in top leadership is closely related to the pipeline of women in the workforce.
Sean Haley, Chairman, Sodexo UK & Ireland said, “As a business, we have been committed to the advancement of women for a long time.
“By putting our head above the parapet and actually conducting research on our own workforce, we have been able to prove that gender-balanced leadership not only makes business sense, but can enhance the quality of life of our employees.
“Despite notable progress, we are fully aware more work needs to be done, which is why achieving gender balance is one of the three pillars of our Better Tomorrow 2025 vision.”
Sodexo, already a leader in diversity & inclusion, is breaking new ground in gender parity. Today, women represent 50% of our board. Thirty-two percent of senior leadership positions are held by women globally – a 6% increase at the very top levels since 2013.
Middle management and site management positions are balanced at 46%. Currently, 59% of the total workforce works within gender-balanced management.
Rohini Anand, PhD, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo added, “These results add a new, compelling dimension to a growing body of research that demonstrates the business benefits of gender equity.
“The distinctive nature of the study, with its examination of both financial and non-financial performance indicators across so many levels of management and the pipeline to leadership, is a significant piece of the overall picture on the importance of gender in the workforce for enhanced outcomes.”
The unique Sodexo Gender Balance Study originated in 2014 with Sodexo’s desire to improve its gender parity in leadership throughout the management of its 425,000 global workforce and to expand previous outside research on gender parity in the workplace.