Three Tips For Speeding Up Gender Equality in the Workplace
Over the course of the last several hundred years, societies and cultures have struggled with the challenges associated with gender equality and equal rights. Shifts in thinking around politics, economics, commerce and education brought about major changes, further advancing ideas around equal rights and opportunities. Men and women began to see each other differently, and barriers that had existed for thousands of years began to break down.
When researching for our latest Talent Trends report, “Women in Leadership”, we found that women represent half of the educated workforce, they are even on track to earn the majority of advanced degrees. But, when we dug deeper we noticed this ratio is not applicable to all roles and all levels. Women represent fewer than 4% of the CEOs in the Fortune 500 and 5.5% of the top leadership positions of companies in the FTSE 100. Indeed, according to the Huffington Post, the number of women in leadership positions sits at around 14% globally. And if you read the headlines, the way women are paid is still not on a par with men. In some businesses women are even told they need to dress and style their hair in line with an outdated, discriminatory guidelines. The issue, it appears, is deeply rooted in culture.
Having gender parity is not just the politically correct thing to do. It is no longer simply a box that needs to be ticked. There is evidence that having a near on equal balance of men and women in your team and on your board of directors gives your organisation a performance boost. A projection by McKinsey and Company states that shifting to gender equality in the workplace could increase the global GDP by $12 trillion in the next 10 years.
Heather Ready, President of Ophthalmic World Leaders (OWL) took part in the research for our “Women in Leadership” paper. OWL has been operating as a non-profit organisation for the professional development and advancement of women in the eye care industry for over 10 years. Its mission now includes advancing diversity. Heather makes a further point relating to the business benefit a balanced workforce can bring:
“Customers and clients are both genders, in order to better understand and address their needs it takes both genders’ input and participation. It enables them to take in varied points of view in decision making, leading to stronger decisions, more buy-in and improves results.”
So, with highly educated women ready and available in the workplace, the potential is there. With evidence for the business case, the incentive to even up is there. Why then is gender parity not yet there? Even though many of the discriminatory policies of the past have been lifted, culture is slower to shift and most organisations are still not geared up to make women’s progression straightforward. And this contributes to other barriers such as a lack of women role models that just works to feed a vicious cycle.
International Women’s Day forecasts the gender gap will close in 170 years, but their Be Bold for Change campaign is trying to speed up that clock. Even with some great women role models sitting centre stage in the field of politics, this isn’t enough to make the clock tick faster. What then can we do as organisations to speed up the process so we can see parity in our lifetime? Our research for our Talents Trends report points to a three-point plan:
- Consider the culture, polices, and practices currently in existence in your business. How do they interrelate? How are they tailored towards men and women differently? Consider things like health and financial wellbeing, critical skills and experiences needed for career success, and leadership engagement and accountability.
- Look at the operations and systems in your business. How do you compare to other companies in your geographic region? In your industry? Among other companies with the same number of employees? With the same amount of revenue?
- Consider where you are, and where you want to get to. Look at drivers that are traditionally considered important to promoting diversity and inclusion within a business. What is the current level of female representation across your business? What does success look like? Where do you want to get to?
For more information on how you can support your organisation on this three-point plan, or for further information about our Talent Trends reports, please contact Wendy McInnes in our Employee Research team or Bhavya Sehgal in Strategy & Innovation team.