It’s time we stop holding our collective breath.
The last few years have presented women with many new challenges in our personal and professional journeys. So much was out of our control, so much momentum was lost, and thanks to the pandemic, the expected wait for closing the gender gap has jumped from 99.5 years to 132 years.
We can’t hold our breath waiting for our turn any longer. Female ambition is alive and well, and it’s time that we re-commit to advancing gender parity, and women and their goals, regardless of what projections say.
The benefits of gender parity have not budged. Companies that have greater gender, ethnic and cultural diversity are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. These companies are also more likely to report a 59% increase in creativity and innovation. As the world struggles with pandemic-related losses and recovery from the recession, our economy desperately needs the boost that gender parity can deliver.
Let’s mobilize our organizations around parity goals that will help us regain lost ground and improve professional opportunities for ourselves and generations to come. Ready to get started?
Build return-to-work policies that consider women’s needs and benefit everyone.
In November 2022, almost 82% of Canadian women in their prime working years had jobs—the highest number since Statistics Canada began tracking this in 1976. A number that’s been attributed to a strong labour demand, combined with desperate employers who were finally willing to consider candidates with “relatively less experience”.
The pandemic has forced government and the private sector to rethink their work models and integrate new policies for flexible hours, remote work and salary levels. Since women still tend to sacrifice their careers to shoulder greater responsibility at home, they are the first to benefit from these new policies and perks. We must continue to apply pressure so that our employers lean into this trend more. The fact that there is more work to be done is especially seen in Europe, where only 22% of women say they can “easily” get an hour or two off work to take care of personal matters.
Create personal-focused policies that acknowledge care-giving.
Since the pandemic struck, in the U.S. alone, 2.5 million women have left the workforce (as compared to 1.8 million men). While some are attributable to lay-offs, the persistence of gender roles in household decision-making is a major cause. In a Harvard Business survey of working parents, 20% of respondents quit or reduced their work hours because they did not have access to personal leave. For 33% of those respondents, the decision was based on “who was better at it” and not on more objective criteria like income or years worked.
To help women re-integrate into the workplace—and alleviate the burden of caregivers who are already working—expanding access to affordable personal leave is key.
As often happens in uncertain times, during the pandemic, organizations tended to hire leaders with a proven track record or C-suite experience–that is, mostly men. With a new future in mind, firms can no longer play it safe. To pave the way for more women in leadership, we need to put more women in prominent roles.
Research from the World Economic Forum indicates that individuals are more likely to hire people like them, thus creating the possibility for a virtuous circle. More specifically, female candidates “self-select into companies with higher proportions of leaders who are women [and are] attracted to companies perceived as having more opportunities for advancement or mentorship. Additionally… female CEOs actually pay their high-earning women more than male CEOs do, which may create a financial incentive for women to join such companies.”
What you can do right now.
If all this feels like a lot, there are things you can do today to move the needle, even if you aren’t currently in an influential role. Let’s create a wave of small actions that will inspire our employers and policy makers to make parity a priority.
Ask HR to bring in speakers to address the positive impacts of greater DEI on culture, performance and attraction/retention rates. Sign up for training sessions to improve inclusive leadership and communication skills and bring your office mates—women and men—with you. Write about DEI gains at your company to show your larger business community what a little openness can achieve.
In 2023 we can make progress on gender parity, with every action—no matter how big or small. It will add up to success for women, for our economy and for society as a whole.