All through history, women have taken action to address inequality and strive for a better future for themselves, their children and their communities. Started in the early 1900’s by the Suffragettes, the first officially named “International Women’s Day” event was held in 1911. Who would have thought that over 100 years later, this would still be something that it so necessary to have? It continues to be a powerful global platform to celebrate the cultural, economic, political and social achievements of women.
Today’s global workforce is 40% female, yet just 5% of global CEO positions are held by women. However, studies have shown that when women do obtain executive positions, both their companies and the females that run them will flourish. An analysis of 300 US start-up investments carried out by Inc.com found that companies with female founders performed 63% better than those that have all-male founding teams.
In a survey of 10,000 female millennials from across all industries, 43% indicated an ongoing employer bias that favours men with regards to promotions, while 30% identified a bias that favours men around career development. The vast majority (71%) also said that whilst most organisations do speak about diversity in the workplace, they do not feel that opportunities are always equal for everyone. In particular, only 35% of respondents within financial services believe that they can achieve a senior level role within their organisation, whilst almost 30% do not believe that their current employer has senior female role models they can aspire to.
Let’s look at it from a different angle: Britain has Theresa May as its second female Prime Minister; Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor of Germany since 2005 and is the leader of the Christian Democratic Union. Hillary Clinton was the USA’s Secretary of State from 2009-2013 and was Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States. Christine Lagarde was re-elected last year to a second five-year term as MD of the International Monetary Fund, the organization that serves as economic advisor and backstop for 188 countries. We’ve not even mentioned the likes of COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi and Chairman and CE of Xerox, Ursula Burns. Surely, there are no higher examples of positions of power than these, yet still, in the vast majority of organisations across all sectors, there is a glass ceiling that needs to be shattered for once and for all.
But this glass, whilst not shattered, has potentially started to crack. As stated in Mercer’s 2016 Global Talent Trends survey, 91% of organisations are expecting both a shift and an increase in the competition for talent. Filling jobs will get tougher and core skills are set to change. Moreover, these skills are regarded by many as being synonymous with females. Companies are beginning to leverage these skills, which include flexibility and adaptability (39% attribute those to women, vs. 20% who say men have these strengths); inclusive team management (43% vs. 20%); and emotional intelligence (24% vs. 5%).*
It is clear that gender diversity is certainly not an issue with a ‘quick fix’ and employers need to take a comprehensive attitude towards building a strong pipeline of female talent that can be sustained. The present situation has developed over a long period of time, so we must now look at encouraging girls to pursue subjects at school and university that will lead into executive positions in the next 10 to 20 years.
As Michelle Obama said: "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens."
And as Beyoncé said: “We're smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children then get back to business.” (Run the World).
The gender diversity issue is not one of potential, but of being able to reach it.
* Source: When Women Thrive Global Report
Tags: International Women's Day, Gender Diversity, Equality, Theresa May, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, Ursula Burns, Suffragettes, global workforce, Michelle Obama, Beyonce, millennial, Workforce, assign Andzelika Zareba