How to Make Gender Equality a Priority in the Corporate World – and Why We Should

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How to Make Gender Equality a Priority

If women in leadership positions boost performance numbers, as the research shows, then all companies must surely be pushing to make gender equality a priority.

But that’s not exactly the case.

The needle that marks progress in gender equality in the corporate world is moving forward at a painstaking pace, and no one knows that more than the women who work there.

The facts speak for themselves: Women still earn on average 79 percent of what men earn, represent only 20 percent of congressional seats, hold only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions, and represent on average 17 percent of global Board positions.

These numbers leave women who work in the trenches feeling disheartened.

gender equality a priority in the corporate world

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There is a ray of light that we should celebrate: some organizations are championing the cause.  They’ve latched on to what the research proves – that companies with the highest representation of women in executive committees and positions perform and compete better than their counterparts. And when organizations focus on gender equality, both in pay and in positions, they have a higher propensity to recruit top talent and even more importantly, retain these women.

At least 10 companies were recognized for taking a stand in The HeForShe IMPACT Champion Parity Report, which was launched in January of this year, in Davos, Switzerland. The report recognizes IMPACT Champions that publicly work for gender equality.

The CEOs of these 10 companies, or IMPACT Champions, made their workforce gender-diversity figures public, including details on leadership roles and board membership:

AccorHotelsBarclaysKoç HoldingMcKinsey & CompanyPricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)Schneider ElectricTupperware BrandsTwitterUnilever and Vodafone.

How these IMPACT companies have done this is by:

  • Mobilizing education among their employees on gender equality;
  • Launching new efforts to accelerate progress toward workforce parity;
  • Empowering men to become activists for gender equality.

In the U.K., over 140 companies have committed to improving gender equality in the workplace through the “Think. Act. Report.” campaign, which encourages companies to:

  • Think about gender equality in their workforces, on key issues such as recruitment, retention, promotion, and pay.
  • Act where the need for action is identified.
  • Report the steps they are taking and the progress they are making. This information doesn’t need to be included in annual reports. Companies may choose to do this on their websites or in their promotional material.

What lessons can we learn from these leading companies to make gender equality a priority in the corporate world?

No. 1 – Take Risks

These companies took the risk of sharing their gender-diversity figures and launching initiatives in support of gender equality. What risks can you take in your workplace to take a stand and lead the way for even more companies to do the same?

No. 2 – Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

Embodying a willingness to change is key to making progress. We’ve all heard the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


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To make an impact, you must be a change agent — even when it’s an unpopular position to take. One way the U.N., for instance, is doing this, as reported in the U.N. Women’s Equal Representation of Women Through the Lens of Leadership and Organizational Culture Report, is by offering special programs to support the career advancement of women, such as women’s mentoring, coaching, women-specific training and development of women’s networks.

What changes need to be made in your organization, that you can facilitate?

No. 3 – Embrace Transparency 

We’re at a great time when authenticity and openness are valued more than whitewashing. Finding and sharing solutions to antiquated problems such as gender bias opens dialogue and breaks up the status quo.

Coming up with out-of-the-box ways to do this can transform your workplace from the inside out. What problems and inequities in your organization need to be addressed?

The world is changing fast. Can your organization keep pace when it comes to moving the needle forward on gender inequity? My role as an Executive Coach is to guide corporate workgroups toward solutions to longstanding challenges such as these. Contact me if you want to get your organization on the leading edge of the transformation that’s taking place in the corporate world.

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