How to close the gender gap and develop future global leaders while working toward true equality in the workplace.
By Lisa Johnson
Female talent continues to hit barriers in professional advancement, representing a disproportionately small percentage when tallied into the executive and leadership roll call. Even when women are completely qualified, they are often overlooked for international assignments, new roles within a company, and senior level positions. While women are ultimately able to attain a certain level of professional success and longevity with a company, they often encounter barriers earning those international and senior level spots. Despite decades of progress towards achieving equality in the workplace, unconscious bias against women continues to limit their advancement opportunities.
Unconscious biases for any gender can be obvious ones such as age, marital status, or nationality—or subtle things such as physical appearance, communication style, job function, and even sports team allegiances. For women seeking leadership and global positions on their career path, unconscious bias in the selection for international assignments is a key barrier central to limiting career growth. International experience is almost always a requirement for senior leadership in global organizations. As a result, corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) is evolving alongside corporate global mobility strategies to better meet the needs of an increasingly global market. Though both are linked to talent management, it’s not always clear if or how the two strategies overlap.
Crown World Mobility has proposed four ways to support women and close the gender gap in leadership by creating and sustaining diversity and inclusion strategies:
- Offer sponsorship for female employees. Encouraging male sponsorship of female employees during their career path better ensures that women get considered for new opportunities and receive the support they need during and after the experience to maximize that knowledge in their careers.
- Use unconscious bias recruiting strategies for international assignment selection. In the same way D&I-focused companies require a diverse candidate pool for filling new roles in the organization, applying those same parameters to candidates for international assignments ensures a more diverse international assignment population.
- Create a culture of workforce flexibility for women and men. A company shouldn’t single out women to request flexibility; strategies should address common barriers such as dual-career careers and family responsibilities, the timing of the international experience, and more.
- Demonstrate the company’s commitment to supporting female employees. Highlighting current and past women in leadership roles and international assignments, establishing a community or network for female employees to ensure a successful career path, and tracking and setting goals to increase the percentage of women with international experience in the organization can make a major impact.
Keeping these four guiding principles in mind will help close the gender gap in the workplace. While women have achieved important milestones in regards to equality, there’s still room for improvement—especially in the areas of global leadership and senior level positions. More companies are encouraging their partners to participate in unconscious bias training, as well as create best practices to support all of their employees. It’s not enough to say diversity matters. Actionable steps like those above could make a real and significant difference in the lives and career advancement opportunities of talented female associates globally.
Lisa Johnson is the global practice leader for Crown World Mobility (CWM)’s consulting services. She has a strong background in international HR topics such as diversity and inclusion, assignment ROI, and innovations in global mobility. Johnson supports CWM’s clients in meeting their strategic mobility goals, from basic relocation to talent mobility integration.