Founded in 2014, When Women Thrive is Mercer’s global research and solution platform designed to help organisations
drive growth through the active and productive participation of their female workforce. The report offers the latest insights from the world’s most comprehensive report on women in the workforce, representing nearly 600 organisations and 3.2 million employees around the globe.
The drive for gender equality is unstoppable and not a case of if, but when. Mercer’s objective for their When Women Thrive research is to create the de nitive, global resource for understanding gender diversity trends inside of organisations, and to guide organisations to most effectively drive gender equality. The research examines the current representation of women and forecasts likely changes. The research also collects data on organisational practices and cultural attributes that may drive success in building representation.
Recent developments favour improved future representation of women. With so much emphasis on gender equality, organisations appear to have improved or maintained favourable promotion patterns and have accelerated the hiring of women into senior levels.
While these trends are encouraging, there is concern that they are not sustainable. The focus has been on the top levels, as organisations have sought to improve executive-level representation. But this focus has not extended to lower levels of the career hierarchy, raising concerns that the internal pipeline for future female managers and leaders may be weakening. For example, in many regions women are actually less likely to be promoted at lower levels. As a result of these patterns, representation of women in the professional sectors would increase only from 35% to 40%, globally, over 10 years.
To accelerate these paths, organisations need to move from ad-hoc efforts to improve senior-level hiring and promotion and focus on the whole system of talent dynamics. To make advances sustainable, they need to focus on the key drivers of gender diversity to build the inclusive culture required to support the change and to accelerate further the speed of progression for women.
This is not just morally right but companies are losing out on a huge talent pool they are losing from the bottom line too. A recent report shows that advancing gender equality could add $12 trillion to the global GDP.
The ILM map below is a graphical representation of the talent pipeline in an organisation—a quick point-in-time “snapshot” of the average survey respondent.
It summarises, for each standard career level, the rate at which talent is flowing into the organisation (total hires), moving up through the hierarchy (total promotions), and ultimately exiting the workforce (total exits). Percentages in the middle of the map indicate female and male representation at each career level. Hire, promotion, and exit rates are calculated as the total number of events divided by average headcount, by level and gender, over a 12-month period.
So Mercer took a look at some some key drivers that are critical to achieving gender equality.
1. A BROAD, ENTERPRISE-WIDE FOCUS IS CRITICAL TO SUSTAINABLE CHANGE
Success in building diversity requires a focus, throughout the entire hierarchy (not just at the top), on talent acquisition, development, and retention. Neither short-term priority at the top of the pyramid or concentration on a single workforce fl ow (e.g. equity in hiring) will drive sustainable change.
2. ACCOUNTABILITY IS NOT ENOUGH – LEADERSHIP NEEDS TO BE ENGAGED IN PROMOTING AND MANAGING DIVERSITY
Engagement of executives and men in D&I activities are strongly linked to success in building future female representation – HR programmess alone cannot deliver gender diversity. However, their data shows little improvement in such engagement.
3. THE ACTIVE MANAGEMENT OF TALENT DRIVES MORE FAVOURABLE OUTCOMES THAN PASSIVELY MANAGED, TRADITIONAL PROGRAMMES
One of the most significant drivers of progress for women is strong, regular pay equity processes, with clear ownership of the process and related remediation protocols. Yet, when we look at global pay equity, there is no evidence that this learning has taken root in respondent organisations. Another area linked to success in building gender diversity is effort to ensure against unintended consequences to those who avail themselves of leave and fl exibility programmes. We see that organisations where men are equally likely to take advantage of programmes are better situated to improve representation of women. It is key to train managers to effectively support employees who return from leaves.
4. HEALTH AND WEALTH SOLUTIONS IMPACT FIRMS’ LONG-TERM ABILITY TO ENGAGE AND RETAIN FEMALE TALENT
A key driver of success in building diverse representation is monitoring savings behaviour by gender and customising programmes to address differences in such behaviour. Women live longer and are more risk averse, leading to disadvantageous savings patterns. Organisations focused on female-only fi nancial planning workshops, focused on helping employees manage their debt as much as their savings, have seen signifi cant impact in terms of their ability to build female representation – likely owing to an enhanced value proposition.
5. MEN AND WOMEN OFFER EMPLOYERS DIFFERENT BUT EQUALLY IMPORTANT SKILLS FOR DRIVING THE BUSINESS
The research identifies the various skills and attributes that are most important for future career success. The top three characteristics identifi ed globally as driving career success include, in order of importance: flexibility/adaptability to change, problem-solving skills, and strategic visioning.
Gender equality is an unstoppable force and it is incumbent upon us all to ensure this is achieved with no further delay.