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Lack of gender balance at your company? You're discriminating, says author and blogger on CSR and HR

If a company's staff isn't gender balanced, it is necessarily discriminating, according to a author and prominent blogger on corporate social responsibility and human resources.

Elaine Cohen of the Israeli CSR consultancy, Beyond Business, made the comments at the HR Leaders Club; a discussion group of influential HR Directors organised by HR and sponsored by Buck Consultants.

During her presentation, Cohen explained her differentiation between a regular HR manager, and a ‘corporate social human resources’ manager (CSHR).

Cohen—who has worked for Proter and Gamble and Unilever Israel—asked the meeting, "Do your companies discriminate? No one will say ‘yes’ to that question.

"Everybody has a equal opportunity policy which says ‘We are happy to recruit any candidate from any background providing they have the right skills, experience or aptitudes.'

 "A CSHR manager would say ‘How many women or minority groups are on your leadership team? How many women or minority groups are in your management ranks or even in your total workforce? What are the gender differences in salary levels between men and women? What about turnover levels by gender as well as professional development opportunities for women and minorities that are realised, not just theoretically possible?

"If your workforce is now not gender balanced sorry, you’re discriminating. It’s as plain and simple as that."

Cohen’s assertion generated some discussion among the audience, with one participant saying: "If you employ engineers, 87% of engineering graduates are male. If you employ psychologists, 82% are female. I’m not going to discriminating by putting a gender shortlist together just because the overwhelming majority of psychologists are female."

Cohen’s book—CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices— is published soon.

The meeting took place at the Covent Garden Hotel in London.