According to Jeanne Meister the barriers to progress are well documented in the Women in the Workplace report. While 74% of companies reported that their CEOs are committed to gender diversity, less than half of employees believed that to be true. Meanwhile, companies which have flexible programs for men and women find they are underused. More than 90% of men and women feel that taking the family leave they are entitled to will harm their careers. This is particularly troubling as in just under 10 years Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce and Millennial women are seeking out employers with a strong record on equality and diversity.
According to recent PwC survey of 40,000 Millennial respondents across 18 countries, entitled Next Generation Diversity: Developing Tomorrow’s Female Leaders, 82% of female Millennials identified an employers’ policy on diversity, inclusion, and gender equality as an important factor when deciding whether or not to work for an organization.
Employers must do more than “talk the talk,” on gender equality.
Instead, they must put into place a mix of inclusive talent and advancement strategies, which demonstrate results.
Marc Benioff, Co-Founder of Salesforce, recently created the Women’s Surge and set a target: achieve 100% equality for men and women in pay and promotion and make sure that at least one third of all participants at any Salesforce meeting are women. As a first step, Benioff asked his senior team to identify their top female executives who would then receive additional leadership training.
Once the pipeline is visible then the next question needs to be asked: what percentage of women is occupying line and staff roles?
One of the biggest barriers to making progress in gender equality rests in the minds of men and women, and it is known as unconscious bias.
Catalyst, a non-profit organization promoting inclusive workplaces for women, defines unconscious bias as an implicit association or attitude about race or gender that operates out of our control, informs our perception about a person or group of people, and can influence our decision making and behavior toward a person or group of people. Companies deal with unconscious bias in various ways from formal training on the topic to recognizing it exists and setting goals to change it. The latter is much more effective as we how difficult it is to move from awareness to changing behavior
Globally, Women’s Labor Force Participation Rate Decreased from 52.4% to 49.6% Between 1995 and 2015
- The odds that a woman will participate in the labour force remains almost 30% less than they are for a man.
- Still, an additional quarter of a billion women have entered the labor force since 2006.
Over 60% of the world’s employed women work in the services sector.
Women Face a Gender Wage Gap Globally, Earning 77% of What Men Earn
- Today, women earn what men were earning ten years ago.
- Global average annual earnings for women are11K, compared to men ‘s earnings of 21K.
Women hold only 12% of the world’s board seats.
One company that stands out for their commitment to closing the gender gap is Kimberly Clark, who since 2009 has seen a 90% increase in the number of women holding director-level and above leadership positions.
“To be an exceptional leader at Kimberly-Clark Corp, you have to develop talent that looks, thinks and behaves like the people who use our products,” says Sue Dodsworth, Chief Diversity Officer for Kimberly-Clark Corp.
While acknowledging unconscious bias is a first step toward understanding how stubborn the barriers are to making change, companies also need to put into place a range of new policies to effect change. Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her recent NYT article entitled A Toxic Work World, proposes a number of policy changes companies need to consider to compete in the global war for talent, and they include:
High quality and affordable childcare and elder care;
Paid maternity and paternity leave;
A right to request part-time work;
Comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers;
Higher wages and training for paid care givers;
Reforms at elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of our digital workplaces.