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Empowering Women in the Workplace

Mid-market businesses still have a long way to go to achieve true gender diversity.

By Marta Chmielowicz

COVID-19 has amplified the challenges faced by working women, driving millions to reconsider their careers as they are forced to shoulder the majority of home schooling and caregiving responsibilities. This moment provides an important opportunity for employers to rethink how they support and retain their female employees.

Grant Thornton’s Women in Business 2020 report, an analysis of nearly 5,000 mid-market businesses, shows that currently, organisations across the globe report a 29% representation of women in senior management roles. Africa has the highest proportion of women in senior management at 38%, but the ASEAN region has also seen impressive gains—from 28% to 35% in one year. Conversely, APAC has the lowest representation of women at 27%.

Research from McKinsey found that the biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is the first step up to the manager level. For every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. Unsurprisingly, this relegates women to entry-level positions, with men holding 62% of manager-level positions compared to 38% among women. The same study found that businesses are more likely to have diversity programmes in place for higher-level roles than junior positions, creating additional challenges for the gender diversity of leadership pipelines.

By measuring diversity data, organisations can create a blueprint for action for a more equitable workplace. Currently, employers are most likely to measure the total proportion of female employees (31%), the proportion of women at the manager level (30%), the proportion of new female hires (26%), and the proportion of female promotions (25%). Turnover by gender is the least tracked metric at 19%.

Creating a culture of inclusion and psychological safety is also a critical component of attracting and retaining the best female talent. The survey results show improvement in this sphere:

  • 33% of business leaders believe that different points of view are always encouraged in meetings;
  • 35% believe that candid communication is always possible; and
  • 30% encourage employees to speak up about concerns or mistakes.

However, nearly a fifth of respondents cite each of these statements as only occasionally true, revealing that there is a long way to go to ensure a universal culture of inclusion.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, Total Talent

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